Politics

Senate Republicans prepare for long haul in fight over Ukraine, Israel aid

Capitol Hill is abuzz with the Senate’s progress on the anticipated passage of a standalone $95 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel and the Indo-Pacific without border security measures. 

After overcoming the first procedural hurdle Thursday, the current landscape is fluid, as the upper chamber now gears up for what promises to be a protracted debate with potential weekend sessions and overnight votes looming. 

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s move to file additional cloture votes sets the stage for a potentially drawn-out process, with the Senate bound by procedural rules dictating the timing of the vote, which could happen anytime between Friday evening and Tuesday, Senate aides told Fox News Digital.

‘Now that we are on the bill, we hope to reach an agreement with our Republican colleagues on amendments,’ Schumer said after the vote. ‘For the information of senators, we are going to keep working on this bill until the job is done.’

The $95 billion package advanced in a 67-32 cloture vote Wednesday, also known as a motion to limit debate on a bill, and moved to a final vote. It required a three-fifths majority.

The package includes $60 billion for Ukraine, $14 billion for Israel, $9 billion in humanitarian assistance for Gaza and nearly $5 billion for the Indo-Pacific. Democrats brought the package up for a vote after Republicans had blocked the $118 billion package that also included numerous border and immigration provisions Wednesday. 

Republicans had previously said they would not approve funding for Ukraine unless the overwhelmed southern border was secured first.

Now, senators await an additional cloture vote before they can enter a period of debate and the opportunity to add amendments over the next few days, and Republicans are sure to bring forth border security-related proposals. 

Sen. Krysten Sinema, I-Ariz., one of the key negotiators for the failed border bill that took months to craft, sparred with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., on the floor Thursday afternoon, Graham dubbing the border bill a ‘half a–ed effort’ he couldn’t cast a vote for. 

‘We have not really tried hard to secure the border. We took a well-meaning product. People worked really hard,’ Graham, a staunch Ukraine funding supporter, said on the floor. ‘I applaud you and others for coming out with a product that I thought had a lot of good things in it, but not enough for me.’

Sinema said she looks ‘forward to debating and possibly even supporting one or more of his amendments.’ But amendments and debate are halted until the next procedural vote, which would open the door for considering additional amendments.

‘However, it could be more difficult to consider some of those border-related amendments since the package now does not include any of the border language that we carefully negotiated over the last 4½ months,’ Sinema said. 

Graham and GOP senators Pete Ricketts, Tommy Tuberville, Rick Scott, Mike Lee, Katie Britt, John Barrasso, Josh Hawley, Rand Paul, Roger Marshall and Jim Risch were among the dissenting votes of the standalone bill. Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., who negotiated the border provisions that failed to pass the Senate on Wednesday, also voted no. 

Seventeen Republicans, including Minority Whip John Thune and senators Chuck Grassley, Roger Wicker, John Kennedy, Mitt Romney and Mike Rounds, voted to advance the bill. 

Republican minority leader Mitch McConnell backed funding for Ukraine and voted to advance the bill but drew criticism from party members who urged lawmakers not to pass foreign aid without securing the border first. 

However, the road to a final vote appears winding, with expectations rife for prolonged discussions and procedural intricacies delaying a definitive decision. 

Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kansas, a rabid Kansas City Chiefs fan, even joked on X that he’s prepared for votes to drag out until Super Bowl Sunday. 

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., appeared determined to make that happen.

‘It’s not going to be easy,’ Paul told reporters. ‘I plan on making them stay here through the weekend, and they’ll get their votes. And they’ll finish up when hell freezes over as far as I’m concerned.

‘By the time the weekend’s over, I hope every American in the country will know that the people who voted for this voted to secure the Ukrainian border before we secure the southern border.’ 

He added he may also ask that the clerk read the Ukraine-Israel bill aloud. 

Rand contended that even if Schumer selects a handful of amendments to bring to the floor, ‘none’ will pass. 

‘The Democrats will vote in block against every amendment,’ he said. 

Against this backdrop, the Senate braces for a marathon of debates, the possibility of amendment votes and the looming specter of prolonged deliberations that could spill into late next week.

On Tuesday, Republicans in the lower chamber instead attempted to pass a standalone bill providing aid only to Israel. It failed after 14 Republicans and 166 Democrats voted against it.

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