Senate Votes to Push Ukraine and Israel Aid Bill Toward Final Passage

Senate Votes to Push Ukraine and Israel Aid Bill Toward Final Passage

The Senate on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly to move toward a final vote on the long-stalled $95.3 billion package of aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, taking a crucial step toward approving the measure and sending it to President Biden for his signature.

The critical test vote reflected the wide bipartisan support for the measure, which passed the House on Saturday by lopsided margins after a tortured journey on Capitol Hill, where it was nearly derailed by right-wing resistance. The Senate’s action, on a vote of 80 to 19, teed up a vote on final passage as early as Tuesday evening, which would clear the measure for the president. Mr. Biden has urged lawmakers to move quickly so he can sign it into law.

“Today the Senate sends a unified message to the entire world: America will always defend democracy in its hour of need,” Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, said on Tuesday. “We tell our allies, ‘We will stand with you.’ We tell our adversaries, ‘Don’t mess with us.’ We tell the world, ‘We will do everything to defend democracy and our way of life.’”

“A lot of people inside and outside the Congress wanted this package to fail,” Mr. Schumer continued. “But today those in Congress who stand on the side of democracy are winning the day. To our friends in Ukraine, to our allies in NATO, to our allies in Israel and to civilians around the world in need of help, help is on the way.”

The House passed the package on Saturday in four pieces: a measure for each of the three U.S. allies and another meant to sweeten the deal for conservatives that includes a provision that could result in a nationwide ban of TikTok. It sent the legislation to the Senate as a single package that will require only one up-or-down vote to pass.

Facing vehement opposition from his right flank to aiding Ukraine, Speaker Mike Johnson structured the legislation that way in the House to capture different coalitions of support without allowing opposition to any one element to defeat the whole thing. The majority of House Republicans opposed the aid for Kyiv.

The components of the bill are nearly identical to one that passed the Senate with bipartisan support in February. It includes $60.8 billion for Ukraine; $26.4 billion for Israel and humanitarian aid for civilians in conflict zones, including Gaza; and $8.1 billion for the Indo-Pacific region.

In addition to the package of sweeteners, which also includes a new round of sanctions on Iran, the House added provisions to direct the president to seek repayment from the Ukrainian government of $10 billion in economic assistance. That was a nod to a call by former President Donald J. Trump to make any further aid to Kyiv a loan. But the bill would allow the president to forgive those loans starting in 2026.

Seventeen hard-right Republican senators who oppose continuing to send aid to Ukraine voted against taking up the legislation.

Senator Tommy Tuberville, Republican of Alabama, said he opposed the measure, arguing that Congress was “rushing to further bankroll the waging of a war that has zero chance of a positive outcome.”

“Pouring more money into Ukraine’s coffers will only prolong the conflict and lead to more loss of life,” Mr. Tuberville said. “No one at the White House, Pentagon or State Department can articulate what victory looks like in this fight. They couldn’t when we sent the first tranche of aid over two years ago. We should be working with Ukraine and Russia to negotiate an end to this madness.”

Two liberals, Senators Jeff Merkley, Democrat of Oregon, and Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, opposed the measure, saying they could not endorse sending more offensive weapons to Israel at a time when the government’s campaign in Gaza has killed tens of thousands of people and created a hunger crisis there.

“We are now in the absurd situation where Israel is using U.S. military assistance to block the delivery of U.S. humanitarian aid to Palestinians,” Mr. Sanders said. “If that is not crazy, I don’t know what is. But it is also a clear violation of U.S. law. Given that reality, we should not today even be having this debate. It is illegal to continue current military aid to Israel, let alone send another $9 billion with no strings attached.”

But the vast majority of senators in both parties supported the legislation, and Senate leaders regarded the bill’s imminent passage as a particular triumph, given the opposition to aid for Ukraine that had built up in the House.

For months, Mr. Johnson and right-wing Republicans in the House had refused to entertain considering aid to Ukraine unless Mr. Biden agreed to a series of stringent measures to curtail immigration on the U.S. border with Mexico. When Senate Democrats agreed earlier this year to legislation that paired the aid with stiffer border enforcement provisions, Mr. Trump denounced it and Republicans rejected it out of hand.

Then the Senate passed its own $95 billion emergency aid legislation for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan without any immigration measures, ramping up political pressure on the House to do the same. For weeks, the message to Mr. Johnson from Mr. Schumer and Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader, has been the same: Pass the Senate bill.

In extensive remarks on the Senate floor on Tuesday before the procedural vote, Mr. McConnell cast congressional approval of the aid package as “a test of American resolve, our readiness and our willingness to lead.” He rebuked the naysayers in his party, criticizing those who, he said, would “indulge the fantasy of pulling up a drawbridge.”

“Make no mistake: Delay in providing Ukraine the weapons to defend itself has strained the prospects of defeating Russian aggression,” Mr. McConnell said. “Dithering and hesitation have compounded the challenges we face. Today’s action is overdue, but our work does not end here. Trust in American resolve is not rebuilt overnight. Expanding and restocking the arsenal of democracy doesn’t just happen by magic.”

Ukrainian officials cheered the impending passage of the bill.

Ruslan Stefanchuk, the speaker of the Ukrainian Parliament, posted a photograph on social media of lawmakers holding American flags inside the chamber in Kyiv, in “gratitude to the United States and to every member of the House of Representatives who supported the Ukraine Aid Bill. We look forward to a similar decision from the Senate.”

“The United States has been and remains a strategic partner that stands shoulder to shoulder with the Ukrainian people in our fight against the russian aggressor!” Mr. Stefanchuk added.

The photograph recalled the scene on the floor of the House of Representatives on Saturday when Democrats waved miniature Ukrainian flags as they voted for the aid bill. They were rebuked by Mr. Johnson and other Republicans, who called it a violation of decorum and said that only American flags should be displayed inside the chamber.

The delayed action on Capitol Hill came as European leaders continued their efforts to bolster Ukraine’s diminishing defenses with mostly modest but consistent weapons deliveries, as they have for months while American aid has been stalled in Congress.

The latest contributions came on Tuesday. Lithuania said it had delivered M577 armored personnel carriers to Ukraine, and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of Britain announced that about $619 million worth of missiles, armored vehicles, small-arms ammunition, boats and drones would be shipped “rapidly” in the immediate future. British officials described it as the largest military aid package that their nation has delivered to Ukraine.

“The costs of failing to support Ukraine now will be far greater than the costs of repelling Putin,” Mr. Sunak told reporters in Poland, standing next to Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary general. “Because only if he fails will he and other adversaries be deterred.”

Lara Jakes contributed reporting from Rome.

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