Senate moves forward on foreign aid package without border security provisions

WASHINGTON — With the help of 17 Republicans, the U.S. Senate agreed Thursday to proceed with legislation that would provide $95 billion in funding for foreign allies such as Israel and Ukraine.

The 67-32 vote in support of advancing the package was more than enough to break the 60-vote filibuster threshold. Now senators say they will discuss the process for introducing and debating amendments in hopes of quickly passing the bill ahead of a planned two-week recess set to begin next week.

“This is a good first step,” Senate Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said after the vote. “This bill is essential for our national security, for the security of our friends in Ukraine, in Israel, for humanitarian aid for innocent civilians in Gaza and for Taiwan.”

Georgia Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock voted with the majority in favor of opening debate on the package. Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, was the only non-Republican to vote “no.”

Progress on the bill, which is being described as a “clean” foreign aid proposal, comes one day after Senate Republicans and a handful of Democrats voted against moving forward with a package that bundled this funding with an overhaul of immigration and border policies.

For the past several months, congressional Republicans had said the influx of migrants at the southern border needed to be addressed before they would be willing to sign off on new foreign aid.

On Sunday, a bipartisan trio of senators introduced a bill that combined all these issues into a single package. Former President Donald Trump swiftly encouraged his supporters to reject it and block President Joe Biden from an important legislative victory during an election year, resulting in Republican leaders in the U.S. House to declare the border security legislation “dead on arrival.”

Ossoff was critical of his GOP colleagues after Wednesday’s vote killing the border-foreign aid package, saying they were cowering to Trump while serious international conflicts raged on.

“The clock is ticking for Ukrainian resistance to Russian aggression,” the Atlanta Democrat said. “The European Union has stepped up to the plate to equip Ukrainian self-defense. It is in our vital national interest that naked aggression in Eastern Europe be resisted.”

If the Senate is able to complete work and pass this new foreign aid package, the question turns to whether House Speaker Mike Johnson will allow the bill to be brought to the floor for a vote in that chamber. Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, has not said how he would handle such legislation.

Last week, he and most House Republicans backed a bill that would have provided $17.6 billion to Israel but nothing for Ukraine. That measure needed two-thirds support to pass but was blocked by Democrats who said it was a bad-faith proposal given the need to support Ukraine and conservatives’ earlier insistence on provisions related to border security. Conservative Republicans who wanted the Israel money to be offset by cuts in federal spending elsewhere also voted “no.”