Senators move ahead with Ukraine aid package as leaders say world is watching

WASHINGTON-

As a growing number of Republicans oppose U.S. aid to Ukraine, Senate leaders are arguing in forceful terms that the money is crucial to standing up to Russian President Vladimir Putin and maintaining America’s global standing.

At the Capitol for a rare weekend session, the Senate voted again to move forward with assistance as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky , issued harsh warnings about the consequences of abandoning America’s former allies in Europe.

“Today it is no exaggeration to say that the eyes of the world are on the United States Senate,” McConnell said. “Our allies and partners hope that the indispensable nation, the leader of the free world, will have the resolve to continue.”

Sunday’s 67-27 test vote on the $95.3 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel and other countries comes as former President Donald Trump, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, is trying to end aid and has intensified its attacks against the NATO military alliance.

Trump said at a campaign rally in South Carolina on Saturday that Russia should be able to do “whatever it wants” to NATO members that don’t meet their defense spending goals. He told a story he had told before about an unnamed NATO member who confronted him about his threat not to help them.

While McConnell has made Ukraine a priority issue, a growing number of members of his Republican conference have followed Trump’s lead and oppose the aid, which Senate leaders have been trying to pass for months.

Without mentioning Trump by name, McConnell said in his keynote speech Sunday that “American leadership is important and in question.”

Schumer said that if the United States does not help Ukraine, “Putin is very likely to succeed.”

“The only correct response to this threat is for the Senate to meet it resolutely by passing this bill as soon as possible,” Schumer said before the vote.

The Senate is pushing several procedural votes on the slimmed-down package after an attempt to combine it with legislation to curb migration at the U.S. border failed. Objections from Republicans who strongly oppose the aid have delayed quick action, forcing weekend votes as negotiations continue on possible amendments to the legislation.

Schumer has said he is open to amendments (most of which would likely fail) but forced senators to remain in session over the weekend to try to speed up the process.

“I can’t remember the last time the Senate was in session on Super Bowl Sunday,” Schumer said as he opened the session. “But as I’ve said all week, we’re going to keep working on this bill until the work is done.”

In a key vote last week, 17 Republican senators agreed to begin debate on the bill and 31 voted against it, giving McConnell and other Republican aid supporters new hope that it could pass.

But even if the Senate passes the package, its future is deeply uncertain in the House, where a large majority of Republican lawmakers are firmly allied with Trump.

Amid battlefield shortages, the package would provide $60 billion to Ukraine, primarily to buy American-made defense equipment, including munitions and air defense systems that officials say it desperately needs as Russia strikes. to the country. It includes $8 billion for the kyiv government and other aid.

It would also provide $14 billion for Israel’s war against Hamas, $8 billion for Taiwan and its partners in the Indo-Pacific to counter China, and $9.2 billion in humanitarian assistance for Gaza.

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