Senate to take up Ukraine, Israel foreign aid package

Washington — The Senate is beginning work on a major foreign aid package for Ukraine and Israel on Tuesday, working to end a monthslong back and forth with the House over the assistance.  

After the House approved the $95 billion in foreign aid in the form of four individual bills over the weekend, the legislation comes to the Senate as a single package that is expected to pass and then head to the president’s desk later this week. 

The package includes $60.8 billion in aid for Ukraine, $26.4 billion to support Israel, along with humanitarian aid for Gaza, and $8.1 billion for allies in the Indo-Pacific. It also includes provisions to allow the sale of frozen assets of Russian oligarchs to help fund future aid to Ukraine, along with a measure that would potentially force the sale of TikTok or ban the app in the U.S.

The upper chamber is slated to take procedural votes Tuesday afternoon, briefly returning from a scheduled recess to do so, before a vote on final passage likely by the next day.

A long push for foreign aid 

Approving the foreign aid has been a key priority for the White House and many in Congress since last fall. This week’s actions are expected to finally bring the effort to a close, after months of dispute, as Republicans pursued a number of avenues to extract a more favorable GOP outcome from the administration’s push.

When the White House sought additional aid for Ukraine in its war against Russia, it was former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy who first insisted on tying those funds to border security measures in the final days of his speakership more than six months ago, stalling its path forward absent an agreement on one of the most intractable issues in Congress.

Months later, after the GOP had coalesced around the idea that Ukraine aid and border security should be linked, a bipartisan group of senators managed to negotiate an aid package that included border security provisions. But at former President Donald Trump’s insistence, Republicans largely rejected it. At the time, Democrats accused the GOP of refusing to address the border, given the opportunity, because doing so could eliminate a key campaign issue for the former president. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer walks toward the Senate Chamber on April 16, 2024 in Washington, DC.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer walks toward the Senate Chamber on April 16, 2024 in Washington, DC. 

Andrew Harnik / Getty Images

Without Republican support for the Senate-negotiated foreign aid and border security legislation, the upper chamber moved forward with the aid absent the immigration components. But after the Senate passed the package in February, Speaker Mike Johnson refused to bring it to the House floor, pledging that the lower chamber would find its own path forward. 

On Saturday, the chamber finally did. In a package of bills that ultimately looked very similar to the Senate-passed foreign aid, the House approved the funds, while a separate border security measure fell short. And although the legislation featured components aimed at making it more palatable to Republicans — like offsetting the Ukraine aid with a partial loan structure and allowing the sale of Russian oligarch’s frozen assets — more Democrats ended up supporting the measures. 

The aid had taken on new urgency after an unprecedented airstrike by Iran against Israel earlier this month and amid dire shortages in Ukraine in its continued war against Russia. Johnson, who voted against Ukraine aid as a rank-and-file member, appeared to have a change of heart, speaking boldly about the chamber’s responsibility in recent days and calling the aid “critically important” after months of appearing lukewarm on the issue. 

The Ukraine aid raised the ire of far-right conservatives and may add to Johnson’s troubles within his conference. But whether his recent maneuvering solidifies a push to remove him from his post dangled by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene in recent weeks remains to be seen. 

The path forward in the Senate

The passage of a similar foreign aid package in the Senate earlier this year suggests the new package will find ample support. With 70 in favor to 29 opposed, the upper chamber approved the package on a bipartisan basis in February. And an eagerness to leave town for the remainder of the planned recess will likely contribute to the effort to quickly move the package through the chamber this week.

Still, some threats to slow its approval remain. Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, slowed the package’s march toward passage at every opportunity in February and may do so again this week. The TikTok provision in the package may also inspire some opposition from a handful of senators. But the bulk of Democrats and a significant portion of Republicans are expected to ultimately back the package. 

“The Senate now stands ready to take the next step,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement following the House vote. “Our allies across the world have been waiting for this moment, and I assure them the Senate is on the path to pass the same bill soon.”

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