The U.S. Senate advanced a stand-alone $95 billion foreign assistance bill Thursday by a vote of 67-32, setting up a final vote on $60 billion in aid to Ukraine and $14 billion in assistance for Israel.
After hours of negotiations, the Senate cleared the 60-vote threshold needed to advance to a final vote on the aid package that includes billions of dollars in assistance for Indo-Pacific countries to confront Chinese aggression.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer introduced the measure late Wednesday after a $118 billion bipartisan border security agreement failed in the Senate, despite months of negotiations.
Schumer said he consulted the White House about a backup plan after former President Donald Trump reportedly contacted Republican senators asking them not to vote for the bipartisan agreement.
“We knew about a week ago when Trump mixed in and said, you know, wanted it to be political. He said he preferred chaos at the border because he thinks it helps him electorally. We knew that we might have to have a separate option,” Schumer told reporters.
If passed, the bipartisan agreement would have increased immigration detention capacity, ended the practice of allowing migrants to remain in the United States while claiming asylum and allowed presidents to temporarily shut down the U.S.-Mexico border if crossings reached certain levels. Conservative Senate Republicans said the bill didn’t do enough.
“This bill doesn’t fix it,” Senator Ted Cruz said earlier this week. “Understand this border crisis is deliberate. Joe Biden caused it. He caused it by his own unilateral decisions.”
The immigration issue, long unresolved by Congress and succeeding Republican and Democratic presidencies, quickly became embroiled this year in the politics of the 2024 presidential election campaign.
The Senate is expected to work through this weekend, as lawmakers add amendments on border security to the foreign aid legislation.
Biden said at a Tuesday news conference he would hold Trump accountable for the arrival of more migrants. Under existing law, many who enter illegally and claim asylum are able to remain in the United States for months or years before backlogged immigration courts can consider their cases.
With the defeat of the immigration bill, the Senate now is set to consider legislation that would provide the aid to Ukraine and Israel, minus any border immigration provisions.
Biden on Tuesday urged Congress to show “some spine” and pass the broader bill, which was developed during months of negotiations by a small group of Democratic and Republicans senators.
Even if the Senate had passed the bill, House Speaker Mike Johnson, leader of the narrow Republican majority in the House of Representatives, said the measure would have been “dead on arrival” in the lower chamber. He said the migration restrictions were not tough enough.
In his Tuesday speech, Biden said, “All indications are this bill won’t even move forward to the Senate floor. Why? The simple reason: Donald Trump.”
He added, “Because Donald Trump thinks it’s bad for him politically.”
Biden said if the legislation is defeated, “Every day, Americans will know why the border is not secure — Donald Trump.”
Trump had urged Republicans to oppose the proposed migration controls as weak. Trump said he would impose tougher rules to keep migrants out of the U.S. if he reclaims the presidency in the November election, where he is likely to again face Biden.
The United States has been Ukraine’s biggest benefactor, and Biden said it was important to send the new $60 billion in aid to Kyiv to help it fend off Russia’s nearly two-year-old full-scale invasion.
“We can’t walk away now,” he said, adding that to deny the additional aid would be a gift to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“History is watching,” Biden said. “If we don’t support Ukraine, history will never forget.”