In Early Morning Vote, Senate Overcomes Right-Wing Opposition to Ukraine Support, Passing $95 Billion Aid Bill 

A handful of Republican senators held the floor overnight in an effort to delay the bill.

AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Senator Vance, a leading opponent of military aid to Ukraine, at the Capitol on February 11, 2024. AP/J. Scott Applewhite

The Senate early Tuesday approved a bill with $95.3 billion in military aid for Ukraine, Israel, and the Republic of China on Taiwan following an overnight effort by some on the right wing of the Republican party to thwart the measure. 

The approval of the bill follows months of haggling on Capitol Hill and debate over America’s role in the world amid a resurgence of isolationist sentiment in the GOP. 

A relative handful of Republican senators who objected to aiding Ukraine’s fight against Russia “held the Senate floor through the night,” the Associated Press reported, “using the final hours of debate to argue that America should focus on its own problems before sending more money overseas.”

Yet in an early morning vote Tuesday the Senate overcame these objections, and more than a dozen GOP Senators voted along with nearly all Democrats to approve the aid bill by a vote of 70 to 29. The bill’s backers contended that failing to aid Ukraine would give a boost to President Putin and harm America’s security interests around the world. 

“It’s been years, perhaps decades, since the Senate has passed a bill that so greatly impacts not just our national security, not just the security of our allies, but also the security of western democracy,” Senator Schumer said after the vote. He had worked closely with Senator McConnell to get the measure through.

The passage of the bill, which faces uncertain prospects in the House, followed stalling tactics by some Senate Republicans via procedural means. 

The stalling began last week when Senator Paul announced that he would not accept a hastened consideration of the nearly $100 billion legislation that Messrs. Schumer and McConnell wanted. Instead, Dr. Paul vowed to use his power as a senator to begin extended debate, which allows every senator up to one hour of speaking time before the bill can receive a vote. 

Speaking from the Senate floor on Monday, Dr. Paul said that foreign partners do not deserve money as the migrant crisis at the southern border puts new strains on communities across America.

“Mark my words: this $100 billion will add to that problem and I think it is absolutely an utter mistake and an insult to every American that we ignore the invasion at our southern border in order to send money overseas,” he said. 

Senator Vance of Ohio echoed those sentiments shortly after Mr. Paul left the floor. “At the same time that world leaders play armchair general with the Ukraine conflict, their own societies are decaying,” Mr. Vance said from the Senate floor on Monday. 

The Buckeye State senator listed illegal immigration, fentanyl deaths, declining birthrates, menthal health issues, and the epidemic of suicide as all being domestic crises worthy of investment — not Ukraine. In a message to European allies, Mr. Vance said: “Fix your own country. Shoulder your own burden. Spend more on defense.”

The Senate proceeded with the foreign aid bill over the weekend — even on Super Bowl Sunday. Senator Fetterman was frustrated with Dr. Paul and his insistence on lengthy speeches and amendment proceedings. Mr. Fetterman told CNN that “We’re all here tonight, at eight o’clock on a Friday night, because of just one peckerhead.”

On Monday, Mr. Vance found a new reason to object to the foreign aid bill: it could lead to another impeachment of President Trump if he were elected and sought a settlement between Ukraine and Russia. 

In a memo sent to his fellow Republican senators on Monday, Mr. Vance said that the foreign aid bill provides more than $10 billion for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative — the same fund on which Mr. Trump placed a hold in 2019, leading to his first impeachment. 

“The bill includes $1.6 billion for foreign military financing in Ukraine, and $13.7 billion for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative,” Mr. Vance says of the foreign aid bill in his memo. “These funds expire on September 30, 2025 — nearly a year into the possible second term of President Trump. These are the exact same accounts President Trump was impeached for pausing in December 2019.”

Mr. Vance says that because Mr. Trump wants to see a negotiated settlement between Ukraine and Russia, the potential 47th president would be hampered in his peace negotiations because he could not accede to possible Russian demands that the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative. 

“If President Trump were to withdraw from or pause financial support for the war in Ukraine in order to bring the conflict to a peaceful conclusion, ‘over the objections of career experts,’ it would amount to the same lake violation of budget law from the first impeachment, under markedly similar facts and circumstances,” Mr. Vance sais. 

“Buried in the bill’s text is an impeachment time bomb for the next Trump presidency if he tries to stop funding the war in Ukraine,” Mr. Vance said on X. 

On Sunday, the chamber had advanced the legislation and began debate on amendments by a vote of 67 to 27, with Senator Sanders being the only member of the Democratic caucus to vote against the measure over his objections to the Israel aid portion. 

Now that the Senate has acted, it will be up to Speaker Johnson whether to take up the legislation over the objections of a sizable number of his fellow House Republicans, though there has been some speculation about attempts by House Democrats to force a vote on the question via a so-called “Discharge Petition.”

When Mr. Johnson attempted to put an Israel-only aid package on the House floor, it failed thanks to the opposition of most Democrats and a sizable number of GOP members.

The New York Sun

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