On Thursday, efforts to pass a $110 billion (£87.3 billion) aid bill for Ukraine in the US Senate faced a setback as Republicans blocked the move. The proposed package included $61 billion for Ukraine, alongside allocations for Israel and aid for Gaza. The White House issued warnings about the dwindling funds for Ukraine, raising concerns about the potential loss of the war to Russia.
While Republicans generally support aiding Ukraine, some have utilized the issue to address domestic concerns over the US southern border. In a 51 to 49 vote against advancing the bill, every Republican senator opposed it, falling short of the required 60 votes. This has introduced uncertainty regarding the future of aid for Ukraine, prompting renewed negotiations just days before the scheduled winter break.
Republicans are pushing for a linkage between aid to Ukraine and comprehensive US immigration and asylum reforms. President Joe Biden expressed a willingness to compromise on border issues to secure the aid bill, emphasizing the urgency of the situation and warning against unintentionally benefiting Russian President Putin.
Earlier in the week, the Biden administration announced $175 million in new security assistance for Ukraine, including ammunition and equipment for critical national infrastructure. Concerns over the aid package's future escalated after a contentious classified briefing on Tuesday, where senators clashed over border security, leading to a dozen Republicans walking out.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky canceled a virtual briefing with lawmakers, adding to the uncertainty. The aid package already includes provisions for border security, but Republican demands for additional changes to asylum rules complicate negotiations with Democrats.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer made an emotional plea to colleagues, emphasizing the historic importance of supporting democracy in Ukraine and warning of Putin's scrutiny. The head of Ukraine's presidential office, Andriy Yermak, echoed concerns, stating that failure to secure more US aid could lead to the loss of the war.
The Senate bill required nine Republican votes to advance, a threshold that proved unattainable. Despite hopes for further negotiations, progress before the holiday break remains uncertain. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham suggested President Biden's leadership would be crucial for a resolution.
Even if the Senate had passed the bill, challenges loomed in the House of Representatives, where Speaker Mike Johnson insisted on significant border security measures for any Ukraine aid. Since Russia's invasion in February 2022, Congress has approved over $110 billion in aid to Ukraine, with distribution already underway.
In a public letter, White House budget director Shalanda Young emphasized the need for Congressional action to deliver weapons and equipment to Ukraine by year-end. Ukrainian officials stress the vital role of US aid in resisting Russian forces and reclaiming occupied territory.
Independent Senator Bernie Sanders, voting against the aid bill, expressed reservations about including billions in military aid for Israel. Sanders criticized the Netanyahu government's military actions in Gaza as immoral and in violation of international law, opposing US complicity in such actions.
(With Agency Inputs)