US Senate moves to line up final vote on Ukraine aid bill

February 13, 2024 12:40 pm

[Source: Reuters]

The Democratic-led U.S. Senate on Monday positioned a $95.34 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan for passage this week, hoping to show strong enough bipartisan support to get the legislation all the way through Congress.

The lawmakers exceeded a simple majority threshold in a 66-33 vote to adopt the aid provisions as an amendment to legislation that could come to a final vote by Wednesday. They were also due to vote on Monday to limit debate on the legislation to 30 hours.

The measure cleared an important procedural hurdle a day earlier in a 67-27 vote, with the support of 18 of the chamber’s 49 Republicans.

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Democratic President Joe Biden has been urging Congress to hurry new aid to Ukraine and U.S. partners in the Indo-Pacific, including Taiwan, for months. After Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel he also requested funds for the U.S. ally, along with humanitarian aid for Palestinians in Gaza.

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

But to become law the bill must pass the House as well as the Senate, and the House has not passed any major aid for Ukraine since Republicans took control of the chamber in January 2023.

House Speaker Mike Johnson indicated an unfriendly reception for the bill, saying in a statement that House Republicans wanted tight border security provisions to be included.

For months, Republicans had insisted that any additional aid to Israel and Ukraine must also address the high numbers of migrants arriving at the U.S-Mexico border.

But last week, at the urging of former President Donald Trump, most Senate Republicans voted to kill a bipartisan security bill that had been crafted over four months and was seen as the most significant border security and immigration reform effort in at least a decade.

The House instead this week is expected to try again to impeach Biden’s Homeland Security Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, the top official responsible for the border.

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

Some Republican senators, including those most closely allied with Trump, have called for another overhaul of the bill.

Senator Lindsey Graham said portions of the U.S. aid should be converted into loans and only “lethal aid,” not humanitarian aid, be included in the package. And he called for U.S. border security provisions, although so far his party has not unveiled border-related amendments.