US Senate faces new test on Ukraine aid bill By Reuters
2024-02-11 20:20:14

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A narrowly divided U.S. Senate will try to move closer to passing a $95.34 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan on Sunday, while hoping to show enough bipartisan support to propel the measure all the way through Congress.

The legislation needs 60 votes to overcome a procedural hurdle and continue toward Senate passage in the coming days. It could move more quickly if Democrats and Republicans reach an agreement to fast-track the measure, though even then it will face stiff opposition in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

The money is viewed a crucial by Kyiv as it grinds toward the second anniversary of a Russian invasion. Democratic President Joe Biden, who has been seeking the aid for months on Friday said Congress would be guilty of "neglect" if it failed to pass the measure.

Voting is expected to begin around 1 p.m. EST (1800 GMT).

House Speaker Mike Johnson, who has a slim 219-212 Republican majority, has indicated he could try to split the aid provisions into separate measures, once the bill arrives from the Senate.

But a standalone aid bill for Israel fell victim in the House last week to opposition from Democrats who favor the broader Senate legislation and from hardline Republicans who wanted compensating spending cuts in a pair of humiliating defeats for Johnson.

During a visit to Kyiv on Friday, a bipartisan delegation of House lawmakers vowed to do their part to pass the measure.

Senate Republicans believe bipartisan passage would help stir support among Republicans in the House.

"It will shape the environment such that ... more Republicans will feel comfortable advancing the bill," Senator Todd Young, an Indiana Republican, told reporters.

The Senate legislation overcame a major procedural step last week, passing by 67 to 32 votes, with 17 Republicans crossing the aisle to support the measure.

Young said those 17 votes represented a "strong number" that could help the package in the House, if that support can be maintained.

The bill includes $61 billion for Ukraine, $14 billion for Israel in its war against Hamas, and $4.83 billion to support partners in the Indo-Pacific, including Taiwan, and deter aggression by China.

It also would provide $9.15 billion in humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza and the West Bank, Ukraine and other conflict zones around the globe.

Republican support for the measure could grow, and the pace of progress could quicken, if Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and his Republican counterpart, Mitch McConnell, can reach an agreement allowing votes on Republican amendments.

Republicans want amendments that could address the record flow of migrants across the U.S.-Mexico border and forgo humanitarian assistance provisions by restricting foreign aid to weapons and materiel.

But no agreement has emerged so far, with some Republicans who oppose further aid to Ukraine vowing to delay consideration by forcing the Senate to comply with a labyrinth of time-consuming parliamentary rules.

"I hope our Republican colleagues can work with us to reach an agreement on amendments, so we can move this bill more quickly," Schumer said at the last procedural vote on Friday.

"Nevertheless, the Senate will keep working on this bill until the job is done."

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