A bipartisan coalition of senators was on track Monday to push a $95 billion relief package to the brink of passage as Republicans bitterly divided over the bill.
Last week, 18 Republicans championed the bill and helped push it through the Senate, despite vocal opposition from the majority of Republican senators, Republican leaders in the House of Representatives and the party’s likely presidential nominee, Donald J. Trump.
Mr. Trump and his right-wing allies have relentlessly pressured Senate Republicans to abandon the bill, which includes $60.1 billion to counter a Russian invasion of Ukraine, $14.1 billion for Israel’s war against Hamas and would provide nearly $10 billion in humanitarian aid to civilians in conflict zones, including Palestinians in Gaza.
Mr. Trump in particular railed against the legislation during the election campaign. In recent days, he has cheered Republican senators for rejecting an earlier version of the bill that included a bipartisan agreement on border security and argued on social media that it was “stupid” for the United States to provide foreign aid instead offering loans, and has encouraged Russia to “do whatever the hell it wants” with NATO members who haven’t spent enough money on their own defense.
But the push appeared to have at least partially backfired in the Senate, where as of Monday, more than a third of Republicans had voted multiple times to advance the relief bill — and their coalition appeared to be holding firm.
“Broadly speaking, this achieves the goals we want to achieve if you want to stop the Russians from killing Americans, push back on the CCP and support our ally Israel,” Sen. Bill Cassidy, Republican of Louisiana, said of the bill during a rare weekend session on Sunday evening, referring to the Chinese Communist Party. He accused his Republican colleagues of “dishonesty” in the way they characterized the legislation. “We in the Senate owe it to the American people to vote for the honest truth and get something done.”
Many of the Republicans opposing the bill argue that it prioritizes foreign conflicts over the threat that a large influx of migrants poses to the United States. This is despite the fact that they voted last week to repeal a version of the law that would have also tightened border controls by restricting asylum laws, increasing detention capacity and speeding up deportations.
“We have not had a serious debate to fix a broken border,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said on the floor Sunday. Mr Graham said he planned to vote against the bill – and skip a conference with European allies this week to make a trip to the southwest border instead.
“You can tell our friends and allies I want to help them, but we have a national security nightmare on our own doorstep,” Mr Graham added.
Other Republican opponents have argued that sending Ukraine the tens of billions of dollars included in the bill would be foolish — and that it would jeopardize Mr. Trump’s ability to cut off aid to Kiev in the future if he wins the election.
“The amendment represents an attempt by the foreign policy blob/deep state to deter President Trump from pursuing his desired policies,” Sen. JD Vance, Republican of Ohio, wrote in a memo to his colleagues. He added that Democrats were trying to “provide grounds to impeach him and undermine his administration.”
Democrats warned Republicans that a vote against the foreign aid bill would only help Russia destroy Ukraine on the battlefield and would come back to haunt them.
“The whole world will remember what the Senate is doing in the next few days,” Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and majority leader, said on the floor. “If some people think that Putin will simply stop at Ukraine, if they think that it is somehow better to talk to him, to appease him, to hear him out, then these modern Neville Chamberlains are ignoring the warnings of history: The The desires of autocrats are endless.”
Republicans have insisted for months that they would not vote for military aid to Ukraine unless Congress – or President Biden – also took steps to address a surge in migration across the southwest border. But when the failure of the border law focused the debate back on Ukraine, some Republicans changed course and supported aid for Kiev.
“I know that it has become quite fashionable in some circles to disregard the global interests that we have as a world power and to deplore the responsibilities of global leadership,” said Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and minority leader, on Sunday in plenary and rejected this from the anti-Ukraine faction of his party. “This is idle work for idle minds, and it has no place in the United States Senate.”
Republican opponents of the bill were still pushing for the opportunity to propose amendments, but as of Monday afternoon, Democrats and Republicans had not been able to agree on them.
“We haven’t even been able to get a single amendment pending,” Sen. Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, complained in a lengthy on-site tirade on Monday, arguing that the process was “not fair.”