The Senate cleared the first hurdle Thursday to advance President Joe Biden’s massive aid request for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan after months of faltering negotiations. But even if the Senate passes the $95 billion bill in the coming days, its fate in the House remains uncertain.

Senators voted 67-32 to clear the first procedural hurdle required for the bill’s passage. This also includes additional funding for the Submarine Industrial Base, US Central Command and US Indo-Pacific Command.

“If we abandon our friends in Ukraine [Russian President] Vladimir Putin, history will cast a shameful and lasting shadow on senators who block funding,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Wednesday before the vote. “It is a matter of utmost national urgency that we get this right.”

The vote came after Democrats, following two months of negotiations, stripped the bill of immigration policy changes that Senate Republicans had initially demanded as the price of releasing foreign aid funding. But Republicans backed down on the deal this week when former President Donald Trump, the front-runner in the party’s presidential primary, spoke out against linking foreign aid to an immigration deal.

It is possible that the Senate could vote on amendments as the foreign aid bill moves forward, providing a potential opportunity to change the legislation for Republicans opposed to aid to Ukraine and Democrats opposed to human rights amid the humanitarian crisis in Gaza seek conditions for Israeli aid.

Although aid to Ukraine initially enjoyed strong bipartisan support, Republican opposition to additional aid has grown in recent months. The Biden administration in December used its final tranche of Ukraine aid from previous aid packages as Kiev faces artillery and ammunition shortages.

Congress has passed a total of $113 billion in economic and security aid for Ukraine since Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022. Israel receives $3.8 billion in U.S. military aid annually.

The Senate bill would provide an additional $60 billion in security and economic aid to Ukraine, including $48.4 billion for military assistance. This also includes an additional $14 billion in aid to Israel.

There is also nearly $4 billion in military aid to Taiwan and other Indo-Pacific security partners, as well as $2 billion to get the submarine industrial base on track for the AUKUS agreement with Australia and the United Kingdom. U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would receive an additional $542 million to respond to its list of unfunded priorities for fiscal year 2024.

The bill also includes $2.4 billion for U.S. Central Command to resupply munitions it has used in response to ongoing attacks by Iran-backed proxies in the Middle East since the Israel-Hamas war began in October 2023 has.

The Republican-dominated House of Representatives failed to pass a standalone Israel aid bill on Tuesday due to opposition from both most Democrats concerned about the lack of aid to Ukraine and Republicans in the conservative Freedom Caucus. who were dissatisfied with the law’s lack of budget balancing.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., previously said the key to unlocking Ukraine aid was immigration restrictions, but also said the Senate deal on the U.S. southern border was “dead from day one,” as soon as the text came out on Sunday.

House Armed Services Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Ala., who supports aid to Ukraine, told reporters on Wednesday that the House could split parts of the Senate bill into separate votes – although Johnson has not yet committed to moving forward has determined.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said Congress needs to move “quickly” on the supplement.

“Whatever the fastest way is, we have to do it,” DeLauro said. “We cannot abandon Israel, Ukraine, humanitarian aid, the Indo-Pacific. This is irresponsible and frankly immoral.”

Bryant Harris is the congressional reporter for Defense News. Since 2014, he has covered U.S. foreign policy, national security, international affairs and Washington politics. He has also written for Foreign Policy, Al-Monitor, Al Jazeera English and IPS News.

Source : www.defensenews.com

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