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The US Senate is poised to approve a $95 billion national security bill, including new aid to Ukraine, but the bill risks stalling in the House of Representatives due to of Donald Trump’s opposition.
The final vote on the bill is expected in the Senate Tuesday morning, after weeks of pressure from the Biden administration and a widening divide between Republican senators over the merits of additional aid to Ukraine and over America’s role in the world.
Supporters of the aid package — including the White House, most Democrats and mainstream Republicans — have argued that abandoning Ukraine could lead to Russian gains on the battlefield and encourage China to invade Taiwan.
But critics of the legislation, including former President Donald Trump, questioned the need for a Ukraine aid bill, saying domestic priorities were more important.
The standoff at the Capitol highlighted how Trump, the front-runner for the Republican nomination in this year’s presidential election, has tightened his grip on the party in the foreign policy arena.
Last weekend, Trump suggested at a campaign rally in South Carolina that he would allow Russia to do “whatever it wants” to NATO allies if they fail to increase their defense spending. This sparked a backlash within the transatlantic alliance, but most Republicans refused to criticize it.
Trump’s influence over the Republican Party has extended to some lawmakers known as national security hawks but who are now reluctant to approve a large foreign security aid package. Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator from South Carolina, instead adopted a proposal floated on social media by Trump to provide loans rather than grants to his allies, including Ukraine.
“A soft loan gives America, which is deeply in debt, a chance to get its money back and changes the paradigm of how we help others. President Trump is right to insist that we think outside the box,” Graham said.
Republicans have long insisted that senators include provisions strengthening immigration policy at the southern border with Mexico in any foreign aid package, but after such a deal was negotiated, they balked at compromise because that the former president had opposed it. Senators then returned to the current version of the bill with foreign aid to Ukraine, Israel, Gaza and Taiwan, but without any border measures.
Mike Johnson, the Republican speaker of the House and close to Trump, suggested the legislation would struggle to gain traction in the lower chamber, which would also need to approve it before it could be signed into law by President Joe Biden.
“Absent a single change in border policy from the Senate, the House will have to continue to work its own way on these important issues. America deserves better than the status quo in the Senate,” Johnson said in a statement Monday evening.
JD Vance, Republican senator from Ohio, delivered a speech lambasting the US foreign policy establishment, which has driven US military involvement in Vietnam and the Middle East for the past 60 years.
“Now these experts are embarking on a new crusade. Now these experts have a new thing that American taxpayers must fund and must fund indefinitely. And it’s called the Ukraine conflict,” Vance said.
But the White House, many congressional Democrats and some remaining Republicans who favor aid to Ukraine have been outraged by the way the legislation has been blocked so far.
“This is a down payment on the survival of Western democracy and the survival of American values,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. “Nothing – nothing – would make Putin happier right now than to see Congress waver in its support for Ukraine. Nothing could help him more on the battlefield.