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Senate Democrats are set to mount a last-gasp push to secure new funding for Ukraine, as the White House warned that there was “no alternative” to US backing for Kyiv’s war effort.
The rush on Wednesday to find a new bill to increase funding for Ukraine came after Republican lawmakers scrapped their support for a bipartisan deal tying more support for Kyiv to a crackdown on immigration at the US-Mexico border.
The frenzy of political manoeuvring on Capitol Hill on Wednesday also raised hopes that more aid for Ukraine, as well as Taiwan, Israel and Gaza, could be agreed after months of turmoil in Congress and deep divisions over the issue among Republicans.
The latest plan to salvage Ukraine funding comes as an earlier compromise deal — agreed by Republican and Democrat negotiators — was expected to fail in a Senate vote on Wednesday, after former president Donald Trump trashed the agreement in recent days.
Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer said on Wednesday he would move to “Plan B” once the first vote failed, calling another vote on a new bill that cuts out border measures but leaves funding for Ukraine.
The vote on the second bill will come on Wednesday afternoon, he said.
“If Republicans block this national security package with border legislation that they demanded, later today I will give them the opportunity to move forward with a package without border reforms,” Schumer said.
Schumer’s pared-back version of the bill could be more likely to garner support from enough Republicans to reach the necessary threshold of 60 senators in the 100-seat chamber.
“It would be an embarrassment for our country — and an absolute nightmare for the Republican party — if they reject national security funding twice in one day,” Schumer said.
The possible breakthrough on Ukraine funding would be welcomed in Europe, amid mounting anxiety among Washington’s allies about a collapse in US funding for Kyiv’s effort to win back territory captured by Russia and withstand further attacks.
But even if the Senate approves Schumer’s “Plan B”, Trump ally Mike Johnson, Speaker of the House of Representatives, would need to agree to hold a vote in the lower chamber. He declined on Wednesday to give his view of Schumer’s proposal.
“We will see what the Senate does,” he told reporters. “We are allowing the process to play out, and we will handle it as it is sent over [from the Senate].”
“I have made very clear that you have to address these issues on their own merits, and Israel desperately needs the assistance, everybody knows that,” Johnson added.
A separate proposal introduced this week by Johnson to increase aid only for Israel failed in a vote on Tuesday night.
As international attention focused on the Senate on Wednesday, the White House warned that it was not focusing on contingency plans to circumvent the legislature if it continues to block extra Ukraine funding.
“We’re focused on passing a bipartisan support package for Ukraine that will provide it with the tools and capabilities it needs to continue to defend effectively and take back territory that Russia currently occupies,” US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Wednesday in Brussels, where he met Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg.
“At the end of the day, there is no alternative to the United States stepping up to the plate and providing a level of resources that allow Ukraine to have the artillery, the air defence systems and the other capabilities they need,” Sullivan added.
Stoltenberg reiterated the importance of support from Nato, including the US, to help Ukraine take back territory and demonstrate Russia made a strategic mistake in invading.
“We are focusing on Plan A, and that is that all allies continue to support Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said. “I expect the US to make decisions in the future to continue to support Ukraine.”