Ukraine Aid Bill Blocked in U.S. Senate as Republicans Press Border Security

President Joe Biden gestures as he delivers remarks on aid to Ukraine from the White House in Washington, D.C., December 6, 2023. (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) − Legislation that would provide billions of dollars in new security assistance for Ukraine and Israel was blocked in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday as Republicans pressed their demands for tougher measures to control immigration at the U.S. border with Mexico.

The vote was 49 in favor to 51 against, meaning the $110.5 billion measure did not obtain the 60 votes needed in the 100-member Senate to pave the way to start debate.

The vote was along party lines, with every Senate Republican voting no along with Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent who generally votes with Democrats but had expressed concerns about funding Israel’s “current inhumane military strategy” against Palestinians.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer also voted “no” so that he could introduce a motion to reconsider the measure. After the vote, Democrat Schumer said it was a “serious moment that will have lasting consequences for the 21st century,” risking the decline of Western democracy.

Republicans said it was essential to make their case for tighter immigration policies and control of the southern border.

“Today’s vote is what it takes for the Democratic leader to recognize that Senate Republicans mean what we say. Then let’s vote. And then let’s finally start meeting America’s national security priorities, including right here at home,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said in a floor speech earlier on Wednesday.

Congressional Republicans and Democrats have been debating for months how to address Democratic President Joe Biden’s request for billions of dollars in funding for Ukraine as it fights Russian invaders, Israel after the Oct. 7 attacks by Islamist Hamas terrorists, U.S. interests in the Indo-Pacific and international humanitarian relief.


But the White House’s two requests for Congress to pass spending bills have failed to advance, and tempers have become increasingly frayed on Capitol Hill as the impasse threatens to stretch into 2024. Democrats argue that aid for allies is essential to support global democracy and ward off autocracy.

“Make no mistake, today’s vote is going to be long remembered. History is going to be judged harshly … we can’t let (Russian President Vladimir) Putin win,” Biden said in remarks at the White House.

A group of Senate Democrats called a press conference to argue that blocking the bill would send a message to both U.S. adversaries and allies that the United States does not stand with its international partners.

“This is running out. We have but a few days for us to make clear, positive progress toward working out the final details necessary for us to show that the United States is a reliable ally,” Senator Chris Coons said.

Republicans contend that excessive illegal immigration across the southern border with Mexico is a hugely important security concern, and say they want more accountability than they are getting from the Biden administration for U.S. taxpayer funds that go abroad.

Schumer said on Tuesday he would try to break the impasse by offering Republicans the chance to add an amendment on border policy to the legislation.

No such amendment had been announced by Wednesday evening.

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