OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.
A bipartisan agreement that many Republicans opposed saw two-thirds of the Senate vote on Thursday to approve a foreign aid package without border security and immigration reforms.
Cloture on the $95 billion measure was required to begin debate, and 60 votes were required. By voting in favor of moving forward and against it, 32 senators, including 17 Republicans, exceeded that threshold.
“The Senate has just voted to proceed with the national security supplemental. This is a good first step,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in a post to X. “Failure to pass this bill would only embolden autocrats like (Russian President Vladimir) Putin and (Chinese Leader) Xi (Jinping) who want nothing more than America’s decline.”
The bill removed several provisions, including those about borders, that were unable to pass a cloture vote on Wednesday. It kept sections that allotted funds for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan, and other foreign priorities, including humanitarian aid.
Senators will presumably talk about the possibility of adding amendments in the coming days. There is a chance for a final vote as early as next week, but not everyone is in favor of moving quickly to approve the foreign aid package.
“I’ll object to anything speeding up this rotten foreign spending bill’s passage,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said on X, adding that it was a “terrible idea” to proceed with a bill that “tries to secure other countries’ borders before we secure our own.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and 31 other Republicans voted on Thursday against moving forward with the foreign aid package. Paul was among them.
Sanders cited objections to giving “$10 billion more dollars in U.S. military aid for the Netanyahu government to continue its horrific war against the Palestinian people,” as well as the prohibition on U.S. funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
“Israel has the right to defend itself against Hamas’s terrorism, but it does not have the right to go to war against the entire Palestinian people. Since this war began over 27,000 Palestinians have been killed and 67,000 wounded – two-thirds of whom are women and children. Over 1.7 million people have been driven from their homes and have no idea as to where they will be in the future. Almost 70% of the housing units in Gaza have been destroyed or damaged. And today, hundreds of thousands of Palestinian children are literally starving to death because Netanyahu’s right-wing government is preventing desperately needed food and water from getting into Gaza. And, to make this unspeakable situation even worse, this bill even prohibits funding for UNRWA, the major humanitarian aid provider in Gaza,” Sanders said.
After Israel accused UNRWA staff members of being complicit in the terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas in October, the organization launched an investigation and withheld previously authorized U.S. funding while the State Department looked into the claims.
In addition to endorsing the bipartisan Senate border agreement, the White House expressed support for the foreign aid package’s advancement. Speaking only of foreign aid, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) expressed opposition to the border compromise, saying, “We’ll see.”
Earlier this week, some Republican senators were overheard engaging in loud conversations behind closed doors as they debated legislation that would provide some funding for the border but much more in aid to countries like Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan.
Fox News Capitol Hill reporter Aishah Hasnie told the network program “America’s Newsroom” Tuesday morning that even one of the bill’s co-sponsors, Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, is now likely to vote against it because of its highly controversial provisions, such as continuing to allow thousands of illegal migrants into the country daily before President Joe Biden would be compelled to shut the border down.
Previously, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) had declared the legislation “dead on arrival” in the House because of the provisions that still allowed as many as 1.8 million people into the country illegally.
Critics from both sides of the aisle have expressed concerns about the Biden administration’s handling of the border. They point to the record number of encounters with migrants since 2021 as evidence of mismanagement. In December 2023, there were more than 300,000 encounters with migrants at the southern border, setting a new single-month record.
Leaked details of the potential border deal suggest that it could allow up to 8,500 migrants to enter the U.S. at the border in 24 hours, or an average of 5,000 per day, before triggering a border closure.
House GOP leaders have firmly stated that they consider the agreement to be “dead on arrival” in the Republican-led House. Johnson and conservative members of the House have maintained that President Biden already possesses the necessary authority to address many of the issues at the border through executive orders.
“I applaud my Republican colleagues led by Rep. Ashley Hinson for telling President Biden directly: You have the existing authority to end the border catastrophe. It was the Biden administration’s disastrous policies—including 64 executive actions—that opened the border,” Johnson said in a statement posted on X. “House GOP is united in taking the fight to the President and making him secure the border.”