US Senate passes Ukraine aid bill, but House likely to reject it
WASHINGTON (AFP) - The US Senate on Tuesday approved $60 billion in funding for Ukraine, in a bill House Speaker Mike Johnson has indicated his Republican-led chamber will reject.
The $95 billion package includes funding for Israel's military and key strategic ally Taiwan, but the lion's share -- $60 billion -- would help Ukraine restock depleted ammunition supplies, weapons and other crucial needs as it enters a third year of war. The bill, which the Senate voted on early Tuesday morning and which passed with bipartisan support, does not include changes to US immigration policy.
A previous Senate text that encompassed both the border and foreign aid was blocked by members of Johnson's own party in the upper chamber, after he similarly vowed to kill it in the House over concerns it did not sufficiently address illegal border crossings. "House Republicans were crystal clear from the very beginning of discussions that any so-called national security supplemental legislation must recognize that national security begins at our own border," Johnson said in a statement.
Johnson had previously stated that the Senate's first bill -- which included some of the harshest immigration curbs in decades but which he said still did not go far enough -- would be "dead on arrival" in his chamber. His rhetoric matched that of former president Donald Trump, who has forcefully called for the bill to be rejected as he runs for office again and seeks to exploit Joe Biden's perceived weakness on immigration.
Despite months of bipartisan negotiations over the bill, Senate Republicans ultimately voted to block it from proceeding. The bill that passed in the Senate on Tuesday excluded those immigration reforms, and passed by 70 votes for to 29 against, with several Republicans backing it.
Divisions among Republicans
"The Senate did the right thing last week by rejecting the Ukraine-Taiwan-Gaza-Israel-Immigration legislation due to its insufficient border provisions, and it should have gone back to the drawing board to amend the current bill to include real border security provisions," Johnson said.
"Now, 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." The Republican logjam over the bill comes amid both disunity within the party and an apparent desire among some to keep the border an open issue leading into the election.
Johnson's opposition to the Ukraine funding bill also places him out of step with the top Republican in the Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Before voting Sunday to move forward with the $95 billion package, McConnell urged his colleagues to reject the isolationist approach of Trump -- without naming him -- and his right-wing allies in the House, and to think about the message it would send if the United States failed to support Ukraine and other democracies.
"Our allies and partners are hoping that the indispensable nation -- the leader of the free world -- has the resolve to continue. And our adversaries are hoping for something quite different," he said. Trump sparked consternation among NATO allies over the weekend with a campaign speech in which he said he would "encourage" Russia to invade countries that do not meet defense spending goals.
He renewed those complaints on Monday, claiming on his Truth Social network that "we are helping Ukraine for more than 100 Billion Dollars more than NATO," apparently referring to other allies besides the United States.