Senate tests Israel, Ukraine bill support, vote on Super Bowl Sunday

Politics

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) holds a press conference after the Senate passed a continuing resolution to avoid a shutdown of the federal government, in Washington, U.S., November 15, 2023. 

Elizabeth Frantz | Reuters

Senators on Sunday voted to move forward with a $95 billion aid package to fund Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, a positive sign that the long-awaited foreign aid could have the votes to pass after a weekend of slow-going negotiations.

“I can’t remember the last time the Senate was in session on Super Bowl Sunday, but as I’ve said all week long, we’re going to keep working on this bill until the job is done,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Sunday on the Senate floor.

Sunday’s vote, which passed with 67 votes in favor, is one of the last procedural hurdles before a final vote, making it a good indicator that the $95 billion bill is headed for success after days of back-and-forth talks.

“I think we’re going to pass this spending bill for Ukraine. We’ve already moved past several procedural hurdles that require 60 votes. I think there will be 60 votes in the end,” Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who has been a lead negotiator on the bill, said optimistically in a Sunday interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Since Wednesday, lawmakers have been working the tedious Senate process of spending hours in negotiations, followed by procedural votes and more negotiation. These proceedings will likely carry into next week before a final vote is held, which cuts into senators’ scheduled two-week recess before federal budget talks begin.

If voting had bled into the Super Bowl on Sunday, Schumer planned to arrange for televisions and pizza on Capitol Hill, according to his spokesperson.

The process could be accelerated if all 100 senators unanimously agree to speed up the timeframe, but Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has been vocal about his intention to delay.

“I’m not gonna object to the amendments, but I’m going to object to condensing time,” Paul told NBC News on Friday. “They’ll struggle through this for two or three more days, we’re going to beat the crap out of them for being for someone else’s border and not our own. And we’ll see where the cards lay.”

On Sunday, Paul estimated that at the going pace, the final vote would likely take place late Tuesday or early Wednesday.

A $118 billion version of the bill already failed on the Senate floor last Wednesday.

Ukraine sympathizers fly a Ukrainian flag outside as the Senate works through the weekend on a $95.3 billion foreign aid bill with assistance for Ukraine and Israel at the U.S. Capitol on February 11, 2024 in Washington, DC. 

Roberto Schmidt | Getty Images

That proposal had border security provisions that Senate Republicans opposed, leading them to tank the deal. Republican opposition to the $20 billion of border funding irked senate negotiators who had engaged in four months of talks to satisfy conservative demands for more border security terms in President Joe Biden’s initial aid proposal from October.

Still, hours after the $118 billion bill was killed, Schumer stripped out the border terms and held another vote on a new $95 billion, no-border version of the bill to at least get the foreign aid passed.

Some Republican senators are still dissatisfied with that compromise and have revisited the necessity of border security provisions, causing political whiplash.

“If we secure our own border here in the United States, I’ve said … we should help Ukraine,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said in a CNN interview on Sunday. “My problem is this: Before we do these things we have to make Americans a priority again.”

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