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House speaker questions Ukraine, Israel aid package as senators prepare for final vote

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker Mike Johnson on Monday evening sharply criticized a $95.3 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel and other countries, casting serious doubts on the future of the package just as Senate leaders slowly pushed it to a final vote.

Senate leaders, trying to send the message that the United States remains committed to its allies, sought to overcome marathon speeches from a determined group of Republican senators and hold a vote to pass the bill on Tuesday Morning.

But Johnson, a Republican from Louisiana, said in a statement that the package lacked provisions on border security, calling it “silent on the most pressing issue facing our country.” It’s the latest — and potentially biggest — sign of opposition to aid to Ukraine from conservatives who have for months demanded that border security policy be included in the package, until just last week. reject a bipartisan proposal intended to reduce the number of illegal crossings at the US-Mexico border

“Now, absent a single change in border policy from the Senate, the House will have to continue to work its own way on these important issues,” Johnson said. “America deserves better than the Senate status quo.”

The growing opposition is just the latest example of how the Republican Party’s stance on foreign affairs is transforming under the influence of Donald Trump, the likely Republican presidential nominee.

Even if the bill passes the Senate, as expected, its future is uncertain in the House, where Republicans are more firmly aligned with Trump and deeply skeptical of continued aid to Ukraine in his war against Russia.

As Republican leader Mitch McConnell and 17 other Republican senators provided the votes to ensure While the foreign aid plan remains on track to be approved by the Senate, Johnson has shown no signs that he will bring the plan to a vote.

Support for sending military aid to Ukraine Aid declined among Republicans, but lawmakers viewed the aid as a direct investment in U.S. interests to ensure global stability. The plan would allocate about $60 billion to Ukraine, about a third of which would go toward resupplying the U.S. military with weapons and equipment sent to kyiv.

“These are the extremely high stakes of the supplemental package: our security, our values, our democracy,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said as he opened the floor. “It is a down payment for the survival of Western democracy and the survival of American values.”

Schumer worked closely with McConnell for months to find a way to win favor in the House for tens of billions of dollars in aid to Ukraine. But after a carefully negotiated compromise that included border policy failed in the Senate last week, Republicans were deeply divided on the legislation.

Senator JD Vance, a Republican from Ohio, argued that the United States should withdraw from the conflict and help end the conflict with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He questioned the wisdom of continuing to fuel Ukraine’s defense when Putin appears determined to continue the conflict for years.

“I think it reflects the reality that we live in, which is that they are a more powerful country and this is their part of the world,” he said.

Vance, along with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and other opponents, spent several hours on the floor opposing the aid and complaining about the Senate process. They retrenched to delay the final vote.

“Wish us endurance. We fight for you. We stand with America,” Paul said on social media as he and other senators prepared to hold the floor for as long as they could.

Paul defended his delays, saying “the American people need to know there was opposition to this.”

But some Republicans warned that bowing to Russia would be a dangerous move that would put Americans at risk. In an unusually brutal back-and-forth, Republican senators who support the aid challenged some of the opponents directly on the ground.

North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis angrily refuted some of their arguments, pointing out that the money would only help Ukraine for less than a year and that much of it would go toward replenishing military stockpiles Americans.

“Why am I so focused on this vote? » said Tillis. “Because I don’t want to be on the pages of history that we will regret if we move away. You will see the alliance that supports Ukraine crumble. You will eventually see China become emboldened. And I will not be on this page of history.

Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., became emotional while talking about the drudgery of the Senate and the time spent away from his family doing little. “But every now and then, problems come our way that seem to be the ones that explain why we are here,” he said, his voice cracking.

Moran admitted that the cost of this project was high for him, but stressed that if Putin attacked a NATO member in Europe, the United States would be bound by treaty to become directly involved in the conflict.

Trump, speaking at a rally Saturday, said he once said As a NATO ally, he would encourage Russia “to do whatever it wants” to members “lagging behind” in their financial and military commitments to the alliance. The former president moved his party away from the foreign policy doctrines of aggressive U.S. involvement abroad and toward “America First” isolationism.

Speaking about the slogan, Moran said: “I believe in America First, but unfortunately America First means we have to engage with the world. »

Proponents of the plan in the Senate have been encouraged by the fact that many House Republicans still are adamant about funding Ukraine’s defense.

Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a Virginia Democrat, visited Kiev last week with a bipartisan group that included Reps. Mike Turner, an Ohio Republican who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, as well as French Hill, R-Ark., Jason Crow, D.-Colo. and Zach Nunn, R-Iowa.

Spanberger said the trip showed him how Ukraine is still fighting for its very existence. As the group drove through kyiv in armored vehicles, they witnessed signs of an active war, from shelters filled with sandbags to burned cars and memorials to those killed. During a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, US lawmakers sought to provide assurance that the American people stood by their country.

“He made it clear that our continued support was critical to their ability to win the war,” Spanberger said. “It is essential for their own freedom. And most importantly, it is essential to the national security interests of the United States.”

The bipartisan group discussed how rarely used procedures could be used to advance the bill in the House, even without the president’s support. But Spanberger called it a “tragedy” that the legislation could still be blocked despite a majority of lawmakers willing to support it.

“The only obstacle is whether or not a person chooses to assert it,” she said. “The procedure that stands in the way of Russia’s defeat is, for me, simply untenable.”

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