Senate Republican Ukraine advocates swept away a last-minute cavalcade of attacks on Monday evening, defeating a conservative filibuster of the $95 billion aid package and putting it on a glide path to clearing the chamber.
The 66-33 vote advanced the bill toward final passage, which is expected to take place by midweek, if not earlier. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has objected to moving forward more quickly, and conservative opponents have used the delay to throw the proverbial kitchen sink at the proposal.
Those attacks are taking their toll, to an extent: 39 Senate Republicans supported a standalone $40 billion Ukraine bill two years ago, a number that’s now roughly sliced in half. That reflects the sustained attacks on Ukraine by GOP opponents, including former President Donald Trump, whose verbal assaults carry more weight by the day as he marches toward the Republican nomination.
Still, those fusillades have almost certainly failed to stop passage in the Democratic-controlled Senate. There’s no such guarantee over in the House, where Speaker Mike Johnson criticized the bill Monday, casting doubt on its future.
“These are chaotic times. And as a support of Ukraine, Israel and our industrial base, it’s adequate. It’s good enough,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) of the Republican support in the Senate.
It’s been roughly 14 months since Congress approved new funding for Ukraine’s defense against Russia’s attacks and the latest tranche is expected to pass the Senate just ahead of the Munich Security Conference, which focuses on threats to international security.
Once a hawkish party that attacked Democrats for being weak on funding national security, now the GOP is split between Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s more interventionist views and those of Trump, who said any more money to Ukraine needs to take the form of a loan. And the run-up to the vote reflected the intense tension in the Republican Party over continuing to fund Ukraine, which receives roughly $60 billion under the legislation. The rest is destined for Taiwan, Israel and humanitarian assistance for Gaza.
Ukraine opponents met late Monday evening and came out resolving to delay the bill as long as they can, even if it requires holding the Senate floor overnight. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said they will use as “much time as we can” on the Senate floor.
“We’re not helping Ukraine at this point in time. We’re fueling a bloody stalemate. It makes no sense,” Johnson said after the meeting.
Trump spent the weekend railing against the bill and said he would not defend NATO allies who did not fulfill spending commitments under the international agreement, comments which split Republicans. A group of conservative senators took to the Senate floor Monday afternoon to denounce the bill; later in the day, some joined Elon Musk on a social media channel to continue the attacks.
On the social media channel, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) questioned the spending pointedly: “This thing still has about $8 billion going directly to the Government of Ukraine. They are not choirboys.”Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH)
And in a sign of conservatives’ fervent pressure campaign to kill the package, Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) argued in a Monday morning memo to his colleagues that Trump could be impeached again if he withholds Ukraine funding provided by the bill. Ukraine supporters rebuffed Vance’s argument, but it was picked up across the right-leaning media ecosystem.
“First of all, Trump has to get elected president. Second, Democrats have to get the House. And then they have to think this is the only thing they could use to impeach Donald Trump,” said retiring Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who voted to convict the former president in both impeachment trials. “I can assure you that if Donald Trump becomes president and the Democrats get the House, they’ll be able to find many opportunities to impeach Donald Trump if they wish.”
Amid the crosscurrents, some Republicans were deliberating over their final vote, with some still pushing for certain amendment votes in exchange for their approval. That’s been severely complicated by Paul’s unwillingness to speed up the process, since Democrats are reluctant to allow amendments without expediting passage.
That led to some GOP senators voting against moving the bill forward. On Monday, some of them were still assessing their vote on final passage of a massive national security spending bill with no border components — sending it to an uncertain fate in the House — after the bipartisan border deal fell apart last week.
“My goal is to be a yes. But also remembering there’s another stage to this, and that’s the House of Representatives. And so we need to help them,” said Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.). “Otherwise, there’s no point in just making a point.”
Speaker Johnson made clear he cares little for the Senate bill in a statement on Monday evening. Though he rejected the Senate’s bipartisan border negotiations last week, he criticized the Senate’s bill for lacking a border component.
It’s just the latest sign of uncertainty for Ukraine aid. Johnson said “the House will have to continue to work its own will on these important matters. America deserves better than the Senate’s status quo.”
Anthony Adragna contributed to this report.