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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, speaks during a press conference outside the US Capitol on November 15, 2023, in Washington, DC.
The Senate is expected to hold a vote Wednesday in an effort to advance aid to Ukraine and Israel, but Republicans are set to block the measure as a result of a clash over border security.
Senate Republicans have insisted that foreign aid must be accompanied by major changes in border security policy, and while there have been bipartisan talks to try to reach a consensus, the two sides remain far apart. It is unclear whether an agreement can be reached on the contentious issue, a critical point that threatens to derail approval of the aid package.
The stalemate comes amid Israel’s war against Hamas and Ukraine’s war against Russian aggression. The White House issued a dire warning earlier this week that funding for Ukraine is running out and that failure to reach an agreement to approve more aid will present critical national security risks.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said before the vote that Republicans will block the bill when it comes up for a vote because it does not adequately address border security.
“Senate Republicans will refuse to shut down a bill that does not seriously address America’s top national security priorities. As we have said for weeks, legislation that does not include policy changes to secure our borders will not pass the Senate,” he said on the Senate floor.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer accused Republicans of “hostage-taking” as the path to passing aid to Ukraine and Israel remains unclear.
Schumer has pushed to start a debate on foreign aid and has promised to give Republicans the first amendment to address their border policy demands.
“Will the senators agree to start a debate, just a debate, on legislation to defend the national security of the United States on such an important issue that concerns the real preservation of Western and democratic values in the world?” she asked. “Or will senators stop us from advancing extremist border policies?”
Schumer warned Tuesday that “without more help from Congress, Ukraine may fall, democracy in Europe will be in danger, and those who think Vladimir Putin will simply stop at Ukraine willfully ignored the clear and unequivocal warnings of history.”
Republican senators are warning that they are on track to go on vacation without approving the supplement, a harsh message to their Democratic colleagues who they say don’t take border security seriously enough.
“It’s becoming increasingly clear that we’re not going to be able to pass a supplemental amendment, which I think is terrible,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, told CNN.
“If I were a betting person, right now I’d say I don’t know how you get this done before the holidays unless we’re here right at the end. But we’ll see,” said Senate Republican leader John Thune. “Maybe all of a sudden there will be a convergence of opinion about the need to achieve this.”
President Joe Biden urgently called on Congress to approve aid for Ukraine in an impassioned speech Wednesday.
“Make no mistake: today’s vote will be remembered for a long time. And history will harshly judge those who turned their backs on the cause of freedom. “We can’t let Putin win,” Biden said.
Senate Democrats have released legislative text for a $110 billion security assistance package that includes funding for Israel and Ukraine and humanitarian assistance for civilians in Gaza, among other priorities. The bill includes border security provisions, but no bipartisan agreement has been reached on the issue.
In November, the GOP-controlled House passed a bill to provide $14.3 billion in aid to Israel. Democrats, however, took issue with the bill because it would enact funding cuts for the Internal Revenue Service and did not include aid to Ukraine.
House Speaker Mike Johnson also highlighted the importance of border security. “Any national security package has to start with securing our own border,” he said at a news conference Tuesday.
This story has been updated with additional news.
CNN’s Haley Talbot and Betsy Klein contributed to this report.