The White House proposal that included over $60 billion in funding for Kiev failed to pass in the Senate on Wednesday, falling short of the 60 votes necessary to proceed.
The final vote was 49 in favor and 51 against, with Senator Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who normally votes with the Democrats, joining the Republican opposition. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, also voted “no” so he could bring the bill up again at a later date, according to The Hill.
The White House originally requested $105 billion in emergency supplemental “national security” funding in October, choosing to bundle the aid to Ukraine with money for Israel, Taiwan and “border security” in order to appeal to Republicans. The GOP-majority House has insisted on dealing with each issue in a separate appropriations bill – which the Democrat-dominate Senate refused.
Earlier in the day, President Joe Biden urged the Senate to approve the bill, accusing Republicans of wanting to “literally kneecap Ukraine on the battlefield and damage our national security in the process” and holding the funding for Kiev “hostage” to border policy.
“Literally the entire world is watching: what will the US do?” Biden told reporters, suggesting that without American leadership the G7, the EU and Japan might not continue backing Kiev and deliver a victory to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The US has sent over $100 billion in aid to Kiev since the conflict with Russia escalated in February 2022, including weapons, ammunition, supplies, and cash to bolster the Ukrainian currency and pay pensions and government salaries. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Tuesday that Ukraine would be defeated without additional funding, and that this would be entirely Washington’s fault.
Speaking ahead of Wednesday evening’s vote, Schumer urged Republicans not to be “hard right” which he claimed was using the border issue as “nothing more than an excuse” to kill funding for Ukraine. Republicans, however, argued that the Democrats weren’t taking their concerns seriously enough.
“It may take a failed cloture vote for them to realize we’re serious, and we’re prepared to do that,” Senator John Cornyn of Texas said earlier this week. Cloture is a Senate procedure in which a bill requires 60 votes to proceed.
House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, told the White House on Tuesday that one of the prerequisites for approving aid to Ukraine would be enacting HR2, the ‘Secure the Border Act of 2023’, describing the situation on the border with Mexico as “an unconscionable and unsustainable catastrophe.”
More than 6.5 million people have crossed the border illegally since Biden took office, he said, including almost 300 “on the terrorist watchlist.”
Democrats have balked at changing any of the asylum or parole rules, which currently allow anyone crossing the border to claim asylum and be released into the interior of the country, claiming that would be “inhumane.”