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Senate pushes Ukraine aid bill toward passage as GOP splits

A bipartisan coalition of senators Monday night pushed a $95 billion foreign aid package for Ukraine and Israel toward passage, as Republicans were bitterly divided over the bill, with their opponents threatening to fight him to the end.

On a 66-33 vote, the measure cleared its final hurdle before a final vote, with 17 Republicans joining nearly all Democrats to help advance it despite the fierce objections of the majority of Republican senators, leaders Republicans in the House and the party. the party’s likely presidential nominee, Donald J. Trump. That put the bill on track to pass the Senate no later than Wednesday.

But the measure’s fate was uncertain because Republican opponents of the legislation vowed to delay the Senate’s passage of the bill for as long as possible and, as Speaker Mike Johnson suggested, he had not intends to bring it up in the House, where the majority of Republicans opposed continuing to send the measure. aid to Ukraine.

“House Republicans have been very clear from the start of discussions that any so-called additional national security legislation must recognize that national security begins at our own border,” Johnson said in a statement. , adding: “In the absence of having received a change in border policy from the Senate, the House will have to continue to work according to its own will on these important issues.

Mr. Trump and his right-wing allies have relentlessly pressured Senate Republicans to scrap the legislation, which would provide $60.1 billion to help Ukraine fight a Russian invasion, $14.1 billion of dollars for Israel’s war against Hamas and nearly $10 billion for humanitarian aid to civilians. in conflict zones, including Palestinians in Gaza. The majority of Republicans in Congress rejected the measure, reflecting a shift away from the party’s traditional hawkish stance and its belief in projecting American power and democratic principles around the world.

Mr. Trump in particular has railed against the legislation since the start of the campaign. In recent days, he applauded Republican senators for rejecting an earlier version of the bill that included a bipartisan agreement on border security, argued on social media that it was “stupid” for the United States to ‘offering foreign aid instead of loans, and encouraged Russia to “do what it wants” to NATO members who have not spent enough money on their own defense.

But the pressure has done little to erode the Republican coalition that helped advance the aid bill.

“If things stay this bad for the next two years, Putin is losing,” Sen. Thom Tillis, Republican of North Carolina, said of Ukraine’s war effort. He argued that helping kyiv maintain battlefield pressure against Russian President Vladimir V. Putin could weaken his power — “and it’s certainly worth $60 billion or $600 billion to get rid of him.”

Mr. Tillis also rejected the idea that Republican voters’ skepticism about the bill was a reason to oppose it.

“When people use the base as an excuse to say they should oppose it, I say: I’m going home, I’m showing some respect to my base, I’m dispelling the rumors, I’m talking about the facts,” he said. he declared. “Besides, I don’t have a basic problem.”

Many Republicans opposed to the bill say it prioritizes foreign conflicts over the threat a mass influx of migrants poses to the United States. This is despite their vote last week to reject a version of the legislation that combined aid with tougher border control measures by restricting asylum laws, increasing detention capacity and speeding up expulsions. .

“A real invasion is crossing our border,” Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, said Monday. “And all they had time to do in the Senate was collect the money, collect the pallets of cash, load the planes, make the champagne and fly to kyiv.”

Other Republican opponents argued it would be foolish to send Ukraine the tens of billions of dollars included in the bill, questioning whether kyiv could ever overtake Russia.

Mr. Putin is “a nasty war criminal, but he will not lose,” said Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, adding that “continuing this war is destroying Ukraine.”

And in a memo to colleagues, Senator JD Vance, Republican of Ohio, suggested that the entire bill was intended to undermine Mr. Trump’s ability to withhold aid to Kiev in the future. if he won the elections.

“The supplement represents an attempt by the foreign policy blob/deep state to prevent President Trump from pursuing the policies he wants,” Mr. Vance wrote, adding that Democrats were trying to “ provide reasons to impeach him and undermine his administration.”

Democrats warned Republicans that voting against the foreign aid bill would only help Russia crush Ukraine on the battlefield and come back to haunt them.

“The whole world will remember what the Senate does in the coming days,” said Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and majority leader, on site. “If some people think that Putin will stop at Ukraine, if they think that it is better to reason with him, to appease him, to listen to him, then these modern-day Neville Chamberlains are ignoring the warnings of the story: the appetites of autocrats are endless.

Republicans have insisted for months that they would not vote to provide military assistance to Ukraine unless Congress – or President Biden – also took action to quell a wave of migration to across the southwest border. But when the failure of the border bill refocused the debate on Ukraine, a subgroup of Republicans pivoted and got behind aid to kyiv.

“I know it has become quite fashionable in some circles to neglect the global interests that we have as a world power, to bemoan the responsibilities of global leadership,” Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and minority leader. rejecting the anti-Ukrainian faction of his party. “This is pointless work for idle minds, and it has no place in the United States Senate.”

Republican opponents of the bill also demanded the opportunity to propose proposals to modify it, but as of Monday afternoon, Democrats and Republicans had not been able to reach an agreement to do so.

“We haven’t even been able to come up with a single amendment while we wait,” Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, complained Monday in a long tirade, arguing that the process was “not fair “.

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