Senate Advances $95 Billion Foreign Aid Package for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan

Despite opposition from conservatives, the bill now heads for a floor vote expected later this week.
Senate Advances $95 Billion Foreign Aid Package for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan
The U.S. Capitol in Washington on Feb. 7, 2024. (Jose Luis Magana/AP Photo)
Cathy He

The Senate on Feb. 11 moved closer to advancing a foreign aid package for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan over opposition from conservative Republicans who say the U.S.–Mexico border should be secured before funds are given to overseas partners.

In a 67–27 vote, the $95.3 billion package moved a step closer to a final floor vote in the upper chamber, which is expected to occur later this week. If the bill is eventually passed by the full Senate, it would next go to the House.

The bill would provide more than $61 billion in assistance to Ukraine, $14 billion to Israel in its war against Hamas, and $4.83 billion for Indo-Pacific partners, including Taiwan, to counter Chinese communist aggression.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) noted how rare it was for the chamber to have to work on Super Bowl Sunday, but argued that the matter is of critical importance.

“As we speak, [Russian President Vladimir Putin’s] invasion of Ukraine has rendered parts of Eastern Europe a war zone the likes of which we have not seen in those regions since the Second World War,” Mr. Schumer said.

“Ukraine is dangerously low on supplies, including ammo and air defenses. If America doesn’t assist Ukraine, Putin is all too likely to succeed.”

The bill’s advancement came days after Senate Republicans blocked another broader foreign aid package that included border security policies, which Republicans had sharply criticized for not doing enough to stem the flow of illegal immigrants.

Former President Donald Trump, who came out forcefully against the previous package, on Feb. 10 called for future foreign aid to be structured as loans.

“It can be loaned on extraordinarily good terms, like no interest and an unlimited life, but a loan nevertheless,” the former president and GOP frontrunner posted on Truth Social.

Republican Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has vowed to delay the final vote on the package.

“It’s criminal neglect for Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer, and [President] Joe Biden to get together to send $100 billion overseas to fix someone else’s border before addressing our border,” Mr. Paul said in a Feb. 9 interview on Fox Business.

Working with Mr. Paul was Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who spoke on the Senate floor for more than four hours on Feb. 10 in a bid to delay the latest procedural vote.

“Mr. President, we cannot send billions of dollars to Ukraine while America’s own borders are bleeding! This betrayal is all the more loathsome because it occurs at a time when the eyes of the nation are turned to sport and family and fun—as they should be,” Mr. Lee said in his opening remarks, referring to the Super Bowl in Las Vegas between the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs.

President Biden, who has been seeking the aid for months, on Feb. 9 said Congress would be guilty of “neglect” if it failed to pass the measure.

Even if the Senate passes the bill, it faces an unclear path in the House, where a growing number of Republicans are highly skeptical of Ukraine aid. Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), who has a slim Republican majority, has indicated that he could try to split the aid provisions into separate measures once the bill arrives from the Senate.

But a stand-alone aid bill for Israel failed in the House last week after all Democrats voted against it in favor of the Senate Ukraine-border package, with help from conservative Republicans who opposed the lack of funding cuts to offset the aid.

Reuters contributed to this report.
Cathy He is the politics editor at the Washington D.C. bureau. She was previously an editor for U.S.-China and a reporter covering U.S.-China relations.