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Senate works through the weekend on major foreign aid package

In World
February 11, 2024

The Senate is working through the weekend on a $95.3 billion foreign aid bill with assistance for Ukraine and Israel, but it may still be days until a final vote as GOP Sen. Rand Paul continues to slow the process.

The chamber cleared a critical 60-vote threshold to advance the bill Thursday, took another procedural vote Friday night and held a floor debate on the legislation Saturday.

But without an agreement from all 100 senators to speed up the process and swiftly pass the legislation, the Senate is scheduled to continue to work Sunday afternoon with a final vote sometime in the week.

“I think we should stay here as long as it takes,” Paul told CNN’s Manu Raju on Thursday. “If it takes a week or a month, I’ll force them to stay here to discuss why they think the border of Ukraine is more important than the US border.”

Lawmakers are moving forward with the foreign aid bill after Republicans blocked a broader bill that would have combined foreign aid with a bipartisan border deal. Republicans had initially demanded that border security be part of the bill, but went on to reject the bipartisan deal amid forceful attacks on the measure by former President Donald Trump and top House Republicans.

For his part, the former president also wrote Saturday on Truth Social that the US should stop providing foreign aid unless it is structured as a loan, illustrating the political pressure on Republicans to kill the legislation.

If the bill is eventually passed by the Senate, it would next go to the House, where it’s unclear when or whether Speaker Mike Johnson would hold a vote on it. Many House Republicans are opposed to further aid to Ukraine.

Ahead of a final vote on the foreign aid package, additional procedural votes are expected, including one on Sunday.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer walks to meet reporters at the Capitol in Washington, DC on Wednesday. - J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer walks to meet reporters at the Capitol in Washington, DC on Wednesday. – J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Senate Republicans are now divided over the foreign aid package, and some are pushing for amendments to make changes to the bill – including to add measures related to immigration and border policy.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Thursday that Democrats hope to reach an agreement with Republicans over amendments. “We are going to keep working on this bill until the job is done,” he said.

The foreign aid package includes billions of dollars to support Ukraine and for security assistance for Israel, as well as humanitarian assistance for civilians in Gaza, the West Bank and Ukraine.

The bill includes $60 billion to support Ukraine in its fight against Russia, $14.1 billion in security assistance for Israel, $9.2 billion in humanitarian assistance and $4.8 billion to support regional partners in the Indo-Pacific region, among other provisions, according to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

As the Senate continues its debate on the legislation over the weekend, advocates are calling on lawmakers to approve an amendment that would give Afghans who were evacuated during the US’ withdrawal of Afghanistan a path to permanent legal residency in the US.

The amendment, introduced by Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Republican Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas on Friday, would “allow Afghan allies to apply for permanent legal residency to provide certainty as they build their lives in the United States after undergoing thorough vetting,” according to a news release from Klobuchar.

Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas is holding up that amendment over changes he wants to make. It’s also unlikely senators will be able to reach a bipartisan agreement for votes on any amendments.

CNN’s Haley Britzkey contributed to this report.

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