A bipartisan coalition of senators on Monday night took another step toward passing funding for Ukraine, Israel and other defense priorities, approving three procedural motions over the staunch opposition of conservatives who have pulled out all the stops to delay the bill.
Senators voted 66-33 to end dilatory debate on the $95 billion package, setting up a final vote for early Tuesday morning to send it to the House, where it faces an uncertain future.
Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) voted no. Merkley had voted with Democrats to advance the bill on earlier procedural votes.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) touted the bill before the vote as a “down payment for the survival of Western democracy and the survival of American values.”
He urged colleagues to wrap up the debate, which has stretched for nearly a week, telling them “it has been long enough” since President Biden first requested the package in October.
Democratic and Republican senators who voted to advance the measure hope strong bipartisan support will give it enough political momentum to spur Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) to bring it to the House floor.
Johnson, however, fired a warning shot on Monday just minutes before the Senate kicked off its first vote, slamming the bill for its lack of border provisions.
“[I]n the absence of having received any single border policy change from the Senate, the House will have to continue to work its own will on these important matters,” Johnson wrote. “America deserves better than the Senate’s status quo.”
The debate on the bill spilled over the weekend and into a scheduled two-week recess, laying bare deep divisions within the Senate Republican conference over the war in Ukraine and how to respond to the crisis at the border.
It also revealed the animosity Senate conservatives, emboldened by former President Trump, hold toward their own leadership.
During the past week of Republican infighting, Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) called on Senate Republican Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to step down from his leadership post.
Even McConnell’s home state colleague, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), called the GOP leader’s support for the emergency foreign aid package “outrageous.”
But McConnell pushed back on his critics by arguing that the nation’s policymakers can’t afford to play politics at the expense of the nation’s security.
He warned Sunday the global order “in which American support is craved and American strength is feared is in doubt.”
“And we, the United States of America, have the most to lose,” he said.
McConnell dismissed his harshest critics in the Senate Republican conference, accusing them of holding grudges after losing the 2022 leadership election when they backed Sen. Rick Scott’s (R-Fla.) unsuccessful leadership bid.
“They’ve had their shot,” he told The Associated Press last week.
Senators on Monday cast their fourth and fifth votes to advance the package, which includes $60 billion for Ukraine; $14 billion for Israel; $9 billion for humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza, the West Bank and Ukraine; and $4.8 billion to support allies in the Indo-Pacific.
It also includes the FEND Off Fentanyl Act, which would empower Biden to sanction transnational criminal organizations that traffic fentanyl.
Senate leaders advanced the package without a bipartisan border reform deal that had been negotiated by Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), which GOP conservatives said fell well short of the strict reforms in the House-passed Secure the Border Act, H.R. 2.
Conservative senators led by Cruz, Lee, and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) rebelled against the border deal, arguing it would make the migration problem worse.
Trump, the likely Republican nominee, also urged Republicans to reject it, telling allies he didn’t want to give Biden a political win.
Many Republican senators who voted against advancing money for Ukraine and Israel said they wanted a chance to amendment package with stronger border security reforms.
A small group of senators offered more than 80 amendments to the bill, prompting some of their colleagues to accuse them of trying to use the amendment process to derail it.
After haggling on Friday and over the weekend, senators failed to reach an agreement on voting on amendments.
The Senate is expected to vote on final passage of the legislation either Tuesday or Wednesday, depending on whether conservatives insist on using all 30 hours of debate at their disposal.