Senate clears major hurdle on $95 billion aid bill


Feb. 11 (UPI) -- The U.S. Senate on Sunday cleared the first hurdle to passing a $95 billion package with emergency aid for Ukraine, a good indication that the measure is headed for final approval, perhaps within days.

"I can't remember the last time the Senate was in session on Super Bowl Sunday, but as I've said all week long, we're going to keep working on this bill until the job is done," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Sunday on the Senate floor.

Senators voted 67-27 to move forward on the bipartisan deal, which would send $60.1 billion to help Kyiv in its war against Russia, $14.1 billion to Israel for its war against Hamas and almost $10 billion in humanitarian aid for civilians in conflict zones, while addressing threats in the Indo-Pacific region.

18 Republicans joined Democrats to approve the package, a critical procedural step that could bring the bill to a vote as soon as Tuesday, Senate leaders said.

"I think we're going to pass this spending bill for Ukraine. We've already moved past several procedural hurdles that require 60 votes. I think there will be 60 votes in the end," Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who has been a lead negotiator on the bill, said Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation."

"It's no exaggeration to say the eyes of the world are on the United States Senate," Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader, said on the floor on Sunday, and called on his colleagues to support the deal. He maintained that U.S. allies "don't have the luxury of pretending that the world's most dangerous aggressors are someone else's problem and neither do we."

Schumer commended Republicans who had backed the measure for "working in good faith to get this done" and asserted that it was "essential" for the Senate to pass the legislation.

Schumer said it has been decades since Congress considered a bill "that so significantly impacts not just our national security, not just the security of our allies, but the very security of Western democracy and our ideals," he said on the floor.

The measure will face stiff opposition in the U.S. House if it passes the Senate. Hard-line conservatives who back former President Donald Trump's stance on increased border security have balked at approving billions of dollars in foreign aid without doing more to enhance border security in exchange.

"We did spend four months promising the American people that we would secure our own border before we focused on other countries' borders," Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, said on "Fox News Sunday."

Trump has said there should be no foreign aid without stricter border measures, but is not likely to get behind any immigration deal, and has encouraged Republicans not to support measures that have been offered.

Any sort of immigration reform would be seen as a victory for President Joe Biden, which would be a negative for Trump and other Republicans who want to keep the contentious measure alive on the campaign trail heading into the 2024 general elections.

A $118 billion measure that included stricter immigration policy failed in the Senate on Wednesday, leading to the scaled-down version which cleared the critical procedural hurdle Sunday.