US Senate passes $95 billion aid bill for Ukraine and Israel, but House battle brews

Aid package approved 70-29 in early morning vote after overnight session dominated by GOP filibuster, amid growing doubts about legislation’s fate in hands of Republicans

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer arrives at the Capitol in Washington, February 8, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer arrives at the Capitol in Washington, February 8, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — The Democratic-led US Senate on Tuesday passed a $95.34 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, amid growing doubts about the legislation’s fate in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

The lawmakers approved the measure in a 70-29 vote that exceeded the chamber’s 60-vote threshold for passage and sent the legislation on to the House. Twenty-two Republicans joined most Democrats to support the bill.

“It’s certainly been years, perhaps decades, since the Senate has passed a bill that so greatly impacts not just our national security, not just the security of our allies, but the security of Western democracy,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said.

The Senate vote occurred before sunrise, after eight hardline Republican opponents of Ukraine aid held an overnight marathon of speeches that dominated the chamber floor for more than six hours.

US President Joe Biden, a Democrat, has been urging Congress to hurry the new aid to Ukraine and US partners in the Indo-Pacific, including Taiwan, for months. After Hamas’s deadly October 7 massacres in southern Israel, he also requested funds for the US ally, along with humanitarian aid for Palestinians in Gaza.

Ukrainian officials have also warned of weapons shortages at a time when Russia is pressing ahead with renewed attacks.

Both houses of Congress must approve the legislation before Biden can sign it into law.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (L) speaks to the press as he meets with US President Joe Biden in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, on December 12, 2023. (Mandel NGAN / AFP)

Schumer said he believes the measure would receive the same strong bipartisan support if it came to a vote in the House.

But the bill appears to face long odds of getting to the floor of the House, where Republican Speaker Mike Johnson faulted it for lacking conservative provisions to stem a record flow of migrants across the US-Mexico border.

Dead on arrival

“In the absence of having received any single border policy change from the Senate, the House will have to continue to work its own will on these important matters,” Johnson said in a statement issued late on Monday.

“America deserves better than the Senate’s status quo,” said Johnson, who has suggested in the past that the House could split the legislation into separate bills.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, Republican on Louisiana, stands outside his office during a meeting with the Speaker of the Israeli Knesset, Amir Ohana, at the Capitol in Washington, February 6, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Senator John Thune, the chamber’s No. 2 Republican, said it was not clear what Johnson would do.

“The House, I assume, is going to move on something. Obviously, they’re going to address Israel,” Thune said.

Hardline Republicans predicted that the Senate legislation would be dead on arrival in the House.

“The bill before us today… will never pass in the House, will never become law,” Republican Senator Rick Scott of Florida said in an early morning floor speech.

The legislation includes $61 billion for Ukraine, $14 billion for Israel in its war against Hamas and $4.83 billion to support partners in the Indo-Pacific, including Taiwan, and deter aggression by China.

It would also provide $9.15 billion in humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza and the West Bank, Ukraine and other conflict zones around the globe.

Republicans have demanded for months that the foreign aid bill include border restrictions.

But a bipartisan border deal, negotiated over the course of months, ran afoul of most Senate Republicans after it was rejected by Donald Trump, the party’s leading White House candidate.

Republican presidential candidate former US president Donald Trump speaks at a Get Out The Vote rally at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina, February 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Schumer stripped the border security language from the bill last week.

Trump, who hopes to use the border issue to unseat Biden in the November election, has since turned his criticism on the foreign aid bill, saying on social media that aid to US allies should instead take the form of loans.

Aid to Ukraine faces powerful headwinds in the House, where Trump’s interests hold greater sway with Republicans who control the chamber by a thin majority.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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