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Schumer to bring spending package on Israel and Ukraine to Senate floor

Senate leader says ‘biggest holdup to the national security assistance package right now is the insistence by our Republican colleagues on partisan border policy as a condition for vital Ukraine aid’

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Monday 27 November 2023 15:28 GMT
Related video: IDF say they are open to extend Gaza ceasefire for more hostages

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has announced that he’s set to bring a spending package connecting funding for Ukraine and Israel to the floor of the upper chamber.

In a letter to colleagues on Sunday, the New York Democrat wrote, “One of the most important tasks we must finish is taking up and passing a funding bill to ensure we as well as our friends and partners in Ukraine, Israel, and the Indo-Pacific region have the necessary military capabilities to confront and deter our adversaries and competitors”.

Both GOP congressional leaders Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Mike Johnson – have argued that any Republican backing of aid to Ukraine must be tied to restricting immigration, CNN noted. Mr Schumer said talks regarding the border issue had gone on over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

“The biggest holdup to the national security assistance package right now is the insistence by our Republican colleagues on partisan border policy as a condition for vital Ukraine aid. This has injected a decades old, hyper-partisan issue into overwhelmingly bipartisan priorities,” Mr Schumer argued.

He urged his party to work with the GOP “quickly to help push for a bipartisan path forward in the coming weeks”.

If Mr Schumer’s version of the package passes the chamber, it’s likely to face stiff opposition in the House, where hard-right Republicans are against further funding for Ukraine and balk at the possibility that it could be tied to funding for Israel.

Mr Johnson put forward a bill earlier this month which only included funding for Israel and which cut funding for the IRS. The legislation was quickly struck down by Senate Democrats.

Mr Schumer may also have to deal with criticism from the left of the Democratic Party as a number of progressives have pushed the idea that Israel funding be connected to humanitarian requirements.

On Sunday, Democratic Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy said he’s open to the suggestion that aid to Israel be conditioned on reducing civilian deaths in Gaza.

In October, the White House issued a funding request which included $13.6bn of border funding to hire 1,300 Border Patrol agents and 1,600 asylum officers to aid the processing of asylum claims.

The request also included more than $61bn for Ukraine, more than $14bn for Israel, as well as $7.4bn for Taiwan and the Indo-Pacific region.

“Senators should be prepared to stay in Washington until we finish our work,” Mr Schumer wrote to colleagues.

He said that they should prepare for “long days and nights, and potentially weekends in December”. The majority leader noted that there will soon be a classified briefing on Ukraine for senators.

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