Senate moves one step closer to passing foreign aid package with key vote


Nathan Howard/Reuters

The US Capitol on February 9, 2024.

The Senate on Sunday moved one step closer to passing a $95.3 billion foreign aid bill with assistance for Ukraine and Israel with a key vote to advance the package.

The Senate is working through the weekend on the bill, but it may still be days until a final vote as GOP Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky continues to slow the process.

The chamber cleared a critical 60-vote threshold to advance the bill Thursday, took another procedural vote Friday night and held a floor debate on the legislation Saturday.

But without an agreement from all 100 senators to speed up the process and swiftly pass the legislation, the Senate is scheduled to continue to work Sunday afternoon with a final vote sometime in the week.

If the bill is eventually passed by the Senate, it would next go to the House, where it’s unclear when or whether Speaker Mike Johnson would hold a vote on it. Many House Republicans are opposed to further aid to Ukraine.

The timing of Sunday’s vote could run into the lead-up for the Super Bowl, and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is preparing, setting up a room off the Senate floor with tables and TVs should the chamber be in session when the Chiefs and 49ers kick off in Las Vegas on Sunday evening.

“I can’t remember the last time the Senate was in session on Super Bowl Sunday,” Schumer said. “But as I’ve said all week long, we’re going to keep working on this bill until the job is done.”

Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut said on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” he believes the Senate will be able to pass the bill that includes funding for Ukraine by early to midweek.

Lawmakers are moving forward with the foreign aid bill after Republicans blocked a broader bill that would have combined foreign aid with a bipartisan border deal. Republicans had initially demanded that border security be part of the bill, but went on to reject the bipartisan deal amid forceful attacks on the measure by former President Donald Trump and top House Republicans.

For his part, the former president also wrote Saturday on Truth Social that the US should stop providing foreign aid unless it is structured as a loan, illustrating the political pressure on Republicans to kill the legislation.

Ahead of a final vote on the foreign aid package, additional procedural votes are expected, including one on Sunday.

Paul continued to dig in on Sunday, repeating similar comments that he will hold out until “hell freezes over.” He indicated he is ready to hold the floor by speaking on the issue of national debt and other matters.

“I love to talk,” Paul said. “That’s one of my favorite things to do. Yes, and I slept all day yesterday waiting for this. I’m going to take Adderall — nah, I’m just kidding.”

“We do this for a purpose,” he added. “I don’t like being here … I’m not here because it’s fun, I’m here because I don’t think enough people are talking about the danger of the debt.”

Senate Republicans are now divided over the foreign aid package, and some are pushing for amendments to make changes to the bill – including to add measures related to immigration and border policy.

Schumer has said that Democrats hope to reach an agreement with Republicans over amendments, though it is not clear whether a deal will be reached.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer walks to meet reporters at the Capitol in Washington, DC on Wednesday.

The foreign aid package includes billions of dollars to support Ukraine and for security assistance for Israel, as well as humanitarian assistance for civilians in Gaza, the West Bank and Ukraine.

The bill includes $60 billion to support Ukraine in its fight against Russia, $14.1 billion in security assistance for Israel, $9.2 billion in humanitarian assistance and $4.8 billion to support regional partners in the Indo-Pacific region, among other provisions, according to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

As the Senate continues its debate on the legislation over the weekend, advocates are calling on lawmakers to approve an amendment that would give Afghans who were evacuated during the US’ withdrawal of Afghanistan a path to permanent legal residency in the US.

The amendment, introduced by Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Republican Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas on Friday, would “allow Afghan allies to apply for permanent legal residency to provide certainty as they build their lives in the United States after undergoing thorough vetting,” according to a news release from Klobuchar.

Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas is holding up that amendment over changes he wants to make. It’s also unlikely senators will be able to reach a bipartisan agreement for votes on any amendments.

This story and headline have been updated with additional developments.

CNN’s Haley Britzkey contributed to this report.



Read More: Senate moves one step closer to passing foreign aid package with key vote

2024-02-11 19:23:00

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