Senate passes $95 billion aid package

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., signals success to reporters after a divided Senate passed an emergency spending package to provide send military aid to Ukraine and Israel, replenish U.S. weapons systems, and provide food, water and other humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza, at the Capitol in Washington on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024.
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The Senate passed a $95 billion foreign aid package in the early morning hours on Tuesday.

Although the bill has bipartisan support, with the final vote tallying up as 70 to 29, it earned strong opposition from a group of lawmakers, including Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah.

Other Republican senators, including Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, spoke in support of the legislation.

Romney issued several dire warnings over what he believes would be the consequences of lawmakers deciding not to send additional funds to Ukraine. He send failure to act would embolden America’s adversaries.

“If we fail to help Ukraine, America will cease to be the arsenal of democracy. It will cease to be the leader of the free world,” he said.

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Leading up to the final vote, Lee spoke on the Senate floor multiple times, including once on Saturday for four hours.

At around 3:30 p.m. MST Tuesday, shortly after his hour-long speech against the package, Lee posted a video on X, formerly known as Twitter.

In the clip, he said, “Having exhausted the roster of senators eligible to speak, who wanted to speak, the Senate immediately called the vote after I clocked out.”

“This didn’t have to happen. It’s unfortunate that we had Senate Republicans turning on the commitment they made to each other and to their voters, and to our House Republican colleagues down the hall,” the GOP senator said.

Lee added that the fact that House Speaker Mike Johnson called the bill “dead on arrival” gives him some comfort.

Johnson released a statement on Monday evening saying the Senate failed to include House Republican priorities like the House-passed Secure the Border Act.

The bill he is referring to would restart construction of the border wall, deploy more Border Patrol agents, strengthen laws against human trafficking, and end the Biden administration’s catch-and-release policy while creating a stricter asylum process.

He said the Senate was right to discard the previous $118 billion bipartisan package which tied the foreign aid with border security funding and immigration reform.

“And it should have gone back to the drawing board to amend the current bill to include real border security provisions that would actually help end the ongoing catastrophe,” Johnson said.

He added, “The House will have to continue to work its own will on these important matters.”

Despite Johnson’s criticism, the White House and Senate leadership are pushing for the passage of the bill in the House.

President Joe Biden in a statement applauded senators who worked together to pass the bill and urged “the House to move on this with urgency.”

“We cannot afford to wait any longer. The costs of inaction are rising every day, especially in Ukraine,” he said. “It is time for the House to take action and send this bipartisan legislation to my desk immediately so that I can sign it into law.”

On Tuesday morning, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., at a press conference joked, “How many of you got more than three hours of sleep? Raise your hands.”

“Today, after not just a long night and weekend, but after months of work, we can say, ‘It’s been worth it,’” he said. “With this bill, the Senate declares that American leadership will not waver, falter, fail.”

Schumer said the responsibility of passing the bill in Congress now falls on the House.

“The responsibility now falls on Speaker Johnson, and House Republicans to approve this bill swiftly,” the Senate majority leader said.

Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., too, applauded the passage of the supplemental funding.

The Senate package includes roughly $60 billion for Ukraine, $14.1 billion for Israel, $9.5 billion in humanitarian assistance, and additional funds for the Indo-Pacific, as CNN reported.

Contributing: Suzanne Bates