Ukraine funding package moves closer to Senate passage



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The Senate voted Friday evening to push a $95.3 billion package funding Ukraine, Israel and other national security priorities closer to passing the upper chamber, even though many Republican senators are upset the legislation doesn’t include provisions to stop the flood of migrants across the southern border.

Senators voted after negotiating throughout the day over amendments to the legislation, which initially included a bipartisan border security deal to reform the nation’s asylum laws and give President Biden greater authority to expel migrants.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) stripped the border security provisions from the bill after all but four Republican senators voted to block it with the immigration and border reforms included.

The Senate voted 64-19 on Friday evening to proceed to the bill. Fourteen Republicans joined Democrats and two independents to formally begin debate on the legislation.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) voted against advancing the bill.

It would provide $60 billion to Ukraine, $14 billion in security assistance to Israel, $9 billion for humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza, the West Bank and Ukraine, and $4.8 billion to support allies in the Indo-Pacific.

Schumer said Friday’s vote “keeps the process of passing the emergency national security package moving forward on the Senate floor.”

He asked Republican colleagues to work with him to reach a deal on amendments “so we can move this bill more quickly.”

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) urged his colleagues to advance the legislation, reminding colleagues they have a “responsibility” to “provide for the common defense and equip the next commander-in-chief with the tools to exercise American strength.”

He ticked off ways that Senate Republicans modified President Biden’s funding request, noting that the legislation will require the administration to identify specific objectives, requirements and metrics for assistance to Ukraine.

He also pointed out the Senate package provides $9 billion more for U.S. defense needs than what Biden requested and shifts $4 billion away from what the White House wanted to give Kyiv in direct budget support.

Clearing Friday’s procedural hurdle will allow senators to amend the legislation.  

A group of Senate Republicans are trying to add border security provisions they say will do more to secure the border than the bipartisan border reforms that Schumer stripped from the package.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who voted against advancing the bill, argued it failed to address what he called the “invasion” of millions of migrants at the southern border.

“How can you be helping Ukraine with their invasion but not be helping America with its invasion?” he said.

He said the bipartisan border deal unveiled after months of negotiations, which were initially part of the defense spending supplemental, would have given too much power to asylum officers to let people into the country legally and would have eventually acted as a magnet for more migration.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) filed an amendment to the bill Thursday that would attach the hardline border security reforms included in H.R. 2, the House-passed Secure the Border Act.

It would require the Homeland Security Department to resume construction of the border wall, criminalize visa overstays, dramatically tighten asylum standards, and require employers to use E-Verify, to ensure they’re not hiring illegal workers.

Some Republicans balked at providing humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said it was “almost to impossible to conceive” that sending aid to Gaza wouldn’t benefit Hamas.

Lee will offer an amendment to the legislation to clarify it should not fund any United Nations organization operating in Gaza.

He noted that while the bill doesn’t fund UNRWA — the U.N. agency that recently fired nine former employees connected to the Oct. 7 attack on Israel — it doesn’t restrict the Biden administration from redirecting funds to other U.N. relief agencies working in the enclave.

Sanders said he voted against advancing the bill because it would send $14 billion in military aid to what he called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “extreme right-wing government.”

He pointed out that 27,000 Palestinians have died during the war in Gaza, two-thirds of them women and children, and called it “unbelievable” that Congress wants to send more military aid to Israel.

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