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Democratic bill with billions in aid for Ukraine and Israel fails to clear first Senate hurdle

Senate Republicans block Ukraine, Israel aid bill
Senate Republicans block Ukraine, Israel aid bill 01:25

Washington — A bill to approve tens of billions of dollars in emergency spending that includes aid for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and other priorities hit an expected roadblock on Wednesday, when a key test vote in the Senate failed. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York pushed ahead with the procedural vote to advance the bill, known as an emergency supplemental, despite Republicans saying they would not support it without stricter U.S.-Mexico border security measures. 

The vote on advancing the measure was 49 to 51, falling short of the 60 votes needed to move it forward.

"Tonight is a sad night in the history of the Senate and in our country. Republicans just blocked a very much needed proposal to send funding for Ukraine, funding for Israel, humanitarian aid for innocent civilians in Gaza and funding for the Indo-Pacific," Schumer said on the Senate floor after the vote. "If Republicans in the Senate do not get serious very soon about a national security package, Vladimir Putin is going to walk right through Ukraine and right through Europe."

Republican anger toward Schumer was simmering ahead of the vote on the package, which includes roughly $110 billion in spending. 

"I think there's an enormous frustration at Sen. Schumer and the Democrats and the administration's unwillingness to deal with our border," Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said Tuesday. 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has supported additional aid for Ukraine, but urged Republicans to vote against the bill until there are "meaningful changes to the border," where illegal crossings have soared to all-time highs over the past two years.

"Now is the time to pay attention to our border in addition to these other important international concerns," McConnell said Tuesday. 

The contours of a potential deal to resolve the impasse started to come into focus earlier Wednesday, when President Biden said he is "willing to do significantly more" on border security. But he also chided GOP lawmakers for their opposition to the package, saying that Republicans are "willing to give [Russian President Vladimir] Putin the greatest gift" if they don't pass additional funding. 

"This has to be a negotiation," Mr. Biden said. "Republicans think they can get everything they want without any bipartisan compromise. That's not the answer." 

The Democratic bill already includes billions in emergency funding for border security, including $5.3 billion for Customs and Border Protection and $2.3 billion for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. But Republicans are pushing for more changes to U.S. policy toward migrants at the border, including reforms to the asylum system and long-term detention rules. Many Democrats support some of these measures, but worry that other proposals to drastically expand the executive branch's authority could be used by a future Trump administration to implement harsh crackdowns along the border.

Mr. Biden called on Congress to pass emergency funding for Ukraine before lawmakers leave Washington for the holidays. The U.S. will run out of funding to assist Ukraine in its war against Russia by the end of the year, the White House warned Congress earlier this week. 

A bipartisan group of Senate negotiators have been meeting in recent weeks to try and reach a deal on immigration issues, but those discussions have not yet been successful. 

Sen. Michael Bennet, one of the negotiators, brushed off concern about the failed vote. 

"I wouldn't read too much into it," the Colorado Democrat said Wednesday. 

Alejandro Alvarez, John Nolen and Corey Rangel contributed reporting. 

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