Ukraine aid bill clears first hurdle in US Senate

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Billions of dollars in US aid to Ukraine were hanging in the balance on Thursday, as several Republican lawmakers voiced fresh disapproval for a new bill that would send $60bn in additional support to Kyiv.

An earlier bipartisan deal that tied funding for Ukraine, Israel and the US’s Indo-Pacific allies to stricter controls at the US-Mexico border collapsed this week under the weight of opposition from Donald Trump

The failure of that bill prompted Chuck Schumer, the Senate’s top Democrat, to push “Plan B” — a pared-back bill without border provisions but including additional support to Ukraine, as well as billions for Israel and money for Taiwan and other US allies.

The revised bill cleared the first legislative hurdle in a 58-41 procedural vote, but now needs the support of at least 60 senators if it is to advance under Senate rules.

That appeared less likely on Thursday as several Republican senators made clear their opposition.

Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator from South Carolina, said he would vote against the new security bill on Thursday, saying he believed “we have not done all we can to secure our southern border”.

“I enthusiastically support Ukraine, Taiwan and Israel, but as I have been saying for months now, we must protect America first,” said Graham.

The tortuous debate in Capitol Hill has sparked concerns about US leadership in European capitals.

Donald Tusk, the Polish prime minister, tore into Republican lawmakers on Thursday, saying in a post on the social media platform X: “Dear Republican Senators of America. Ronald Reagan, who helped millions of us to win back our freedom and independence, must be turning in his grave today.

“Shame on you,” Tusk added.

Although eight Republicans voted for Schumer’s Plan B bill in Wednesday’s initial procedural vote, it remained unclear on Thursday whether enough would sign on to clear the 60-vote filibuster threshold in a crucial second vote set for Thursday afternoon.

Republican lawmakers held a closed-door meeting on Thursday to discuss their position. They are likely to propose amendments to the latest bill as part of their negotiations.

Trump, who has said he would end the war in Ukraine on “day one” of his new administration if he is re-elected as president in November’s US election, has yet to publicly weigh in on the latest proposals.

The debate in Washington over more aid for Ukraine as it fights against Russia’s invasion has divided the Republican party and raised alarm bells with US allies abroad.

Speaking at a fundraiser in New York City on Wednesday night, US President Joe Biden warned that lawmakers risked abandoning Ukraine at a critical moment in the war, and signalling to the rest of the world that the US was stepping back from global leadership.

“What happens in the Middle East?” Biden added. “The Taiwan Strait? What happens in Asia? What happens with Ukraine?”

Even if senators are able to cobble together an agreement on more aid to Ukraine, the legislation would still need to pass the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, where Speaker of the House Mike Johnson has been loath to support additional aid for Kyiv.

Ralph Norman, a Republican House member from South Carolina, told the Financial Times on Thursday he “hoped” Johnson would not allow a version of the Senate bill to be taken up by the House.

“It is a complete giveaway for this country on money we don’t have,” Norman said. “Mike [Johnson] is new to the job, but he understands what is at stake here. I hope we don’t take it up on the floor. It doesn’t deserve to be taken up.”

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