Senate advances Ukraine funding without border security reforms

The Senate voted Thursday to advance a $95 billion emergency security spending bill with $60 billion to support the war in Ukraine — but without a bipartisan border security bill that ran into stiff opposition from Republicans.

The move by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to swiftly bring the security spending package back to the floor without the controversial border security reforms gives new political momentum to U.S. aid for Ukraine.

The Senate voted 67-32 to advance a legislative vehicle that Schumer says will be used to carry funding for Ukraine, Israel, Indo-Pacific security and humanitarian assistance for civilians around the world.

Seventeen Republican senators voted to advance the legislation, including Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and Senate GOP Whip John Thune (S.D.). 

Other Republicans who voted yes were Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), Bill Cassidy (La.), Susan Collins (Maine), John Cornyn (Texas), Joni Ernst (Iowa), Chuck Grassley (Iowa), John Kennedy (La.), Jerry Moran (Kan.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Mitt Romney (Utah), Mike Rounds (S.D.), Dan Sullivan (Alaska), Thom Tillis (N.C.), Roger Wicker (Miss.) and Todd Young (Ind.). 

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt. ) voted against it.

Senators a day earlier had voted to block the exact same measure when it was also supposed to include the bipartisan border security reforms.

The second vote on advancing money for Ukraine and Israel was delayed for a day as a group of Republican senators tried to haggle for a promise from Schumer that they would be allowed to amend the package with their own ideas for securing the southern border.

McConnell on Tuesday suggested splitting off money for Ukraine, Israel and other national security priorities from the bipartisan border security deal, after former President Trump opposed it and members of the GOP conference revolted against the border-related proposals.

“There are other parts of this supplemental that are extremely important as well: Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan. We still in my view ought to tackle the rest of it because it’s important, not that the border isn’t important, but we can’t get an outcome. So that’s where I think we ought to head,” he said.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) arrives for a Senate Republican Conference meeting on Thursday, February 8, 2024 to discuss the way forward on clean supplemental bill to fund Israel, the Indo-Pacific and Ukraine and look at border security separately. (Greg Nash)

Schumer did just that by announcing Wednesday morning that if the national security supplemental funding bill with border security provisions failed, he would immediately call a vote on the same package but without the border security elements.

“First Republicans said they would only do Ukraine and Israel, humanitarian aid with border. Then they said they would not do it with border. Well, we’re going to give them both options. We’ll take either one. We just hope they can come to ‘yes’ on something,” Schumer said before the votes.

The Senate still needs to hold at least five more votes to pass funding for Ukraine and Israel and send it to the House, where it faces a rocky road.

House Armed Services Committee Chair Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) told Bloomberg on Wednesday that Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) will not put funding for Ukraine up for a vote without strong border reforms attached.

But before it reaches the House, senators will need to vote on another procedural motion to advance to the legislative vehicle.

Top Stories from The Hill

They will also have to vote on amending it with the $95 billion defense spending bill, which the Senate Appropriations Committee unveiled Wednesday afternoon, and then vote to get it off the Senate floor — a process that could take several days.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who generally opposes foreign aid packages, threatened Thursday to drag the votes out as long as possible.

“I’ll object to anything speeding up this rotten foreign spending bill’s passage,” he posted on the social media site X, formerly known as Twitter.

“It’s a terrible idea to put forward and pass a bill that tries to secure other countries’ borders before we secure our own. We need to address our problems here at home in a REAL way,” he argued.

Lawmakers are under heavy pressure to approve funding for Ukraine as quickly as possible, given the dwindling supply of weapons and ammunition available to its front-line fighters.

The Senate package would provide $19.85 billion to replenish U.S. weapons and equipment provided to Ukraine, $13.8 billion to help Ukraine purchase weapons from U.S. manufactures and $14.8 billion for U.S. support through military training and intelligence sharing.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, urged colleagues Tuesday to support new military aid to Ukraine, warning that it’s now facing a disadvantage against Russia, which is being supplied by Iran and North Korea.

“Right now that Ukraine has just 20 percent of the ammunition and artillery it needs as Russia is advancing. How America responds today will determine the strength of tomorrow’s autocrats,” she said.

“Under [President Vladimir Putin], Russia has deepened their ties with Iran, with North Korea and the People’s Republic of China. Up to 85 percent of Russia’s missiles are now foreign made, and Iran supplies 70 percent of Russia’s drone capabilities,” she said. “If we fail to support Ukraine, we will only embolden Iran and its proxies further.”

Speaking on the Senate floor Wednesday, McConnell argued the Senate has a responsibility to invest in America’s ability to project strength and credibility abroad.

“If America fails to stand with our partners on the front lines in Europe and the Middle East, we will shred our credibility with friends in the Indo-Pacific,” he warned.

He said the Senate must consider “some weighty responsibilities,” such as the need to invest in “hard power” and “commit to allies that fear being abandoned.”

Tags Bernie Sanders Chuck Schumer Jeanne Shaheen John Thune Mike Johnson Mike Rogers Mitch McConnell Rand Paul Vladimir Putin

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

See all Hill.TV See all Video