Senate gears up for test vote on Israel and Ukraine aid amid clash over border security
(CNN) — The Senate is expected to hold a vote Wednesday in an effort to advance aid to Ukraine and Israel, but Republicans appear poised to block the move as a result of a clash over border security.
Senate Republicans have insisted that the foreign aid must be paired with major border security policy changes, and while there have been bipartisan talks to try to find consensus, the two sides remain far apart. It’s not clear whether an agreement can be reached over the contentious issue, a critical sticking point that threatens to derail passage of the aid package.
The stalemate comes amid Israel’s war against Hamas and Ukraine’s war against Russian aggression. The White House issued a dire warning earlier this week that funding for Ukraine is running out and failure to secure an agreement to approve further aid will present critical national security risks.
A number of Republicans have said they believe Wednesday’s procedural vote will fail, and that rejecting it will demonstrate how serious they are about their border policy demands.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, has said that he wants the Senate to pass a comprehensive package that deals with Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, but has encouraged his members to vote “no” on the procedural motion to send a message to Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
At a news conference on Tuesday, McConnell said, “My advice to the majority leader last week was: ‘If you don’t believe how serious we are about this, then file cloture.’ And so I’m advocating, and I hope, all of our members vote ‘no’ on the motion to proceed to the shell to make the point, hopefully for the final time, that we insist on meaningful changes to the border.”
“Now is the time to pay attention to our own border in addition to these other important international concerns,” he said.
House Speaker Mike Johnson has also stressed the importance of border security. “Any national security package has to begin with the security of our own border,” he said at a news conference Tuesday.
“We have to effect real policy change at the border. And that is a necessary condition to anything we do going forward,” he said.
Schumer has accused Republicans of “hostage taking” as the path to passing aid to Ukraine and Israel remains unclear.
“The Senate supplemental package remains on hold because our Republican colleagues have insisted that they need an immigration proposal to pass,” the New York Democrat said in a speech on the Senate floor Tuesday. “While immigration is important, it’s a separate issue from foreign aid to Ukraine and Israel and humanitarian aid to Gaza and the Indo-Pacific.”
Schumer warned that “without more aid from Congress, Ukraine may fall, democracy in Europe will be imperiled and those who think Vladimir Putin will stop merely at Ukraine willfully ignored the clear and unmistakable warnings of history.”
Senate Democrats have released legislative text for a $110 billion security assistance package that includes funding for Israel and Ukraine and humanitarian assistance for civilians in Gaza, among other priorities. The bill includes border security provisions, but a bipartisan deal hasn’t been struck over the issue.
In November, the GOP-controlled House passed a bill to provide $14.3 billion in aid to Israel. Democrats, however, took issue with the bill over the fact that it would enact funding cuts to the Internal Revenue Service and that it did not include aid to Ukraine.
CNN’s Haley Talbot and Betsy Klein contributed to this report.