state of play

Republicans say they’ll oppose Israel aid package vote amid border impasse

The Senate is set to take an initial procedural vote on a package including Israel aid on Wednesday, which is expected to fail

Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX_ speaks during the Senate Judiciary Committee markup hearing on Thursday, November 30, 2023.

Senate Republicans said on Monday they’ll oppose a procedural vote on an aid package containing support for Israel, Ukraine, Taiwan and humanitarian aid later this week amid an impasse over Republican-sought border policy changes.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on Monday set up a Wednesday procedural vote on the aid package. But Republican leaders said yesterday they expect their party to oppose it, meaning the vote will likely fail, delaying Senate passage of the Israel bill. Senate Republicans have been demanding substantial changes to border and immigration policy in exchange for their support for the bill, and negotiations had been ongoing last week.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) told reporters yesterday he expects Republicans will vote in lockstep against the aid package without border policy changes. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) said she will vote against the procedural vote on the supplemental unless there are “substantial changes to policy.”

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) said a failed vote will be “proof of resolve” from the Republicans on the border issue. 

Cornyn indicated that he’s not open to significant compromises, describing the border policy changes as “a price that has to be paid in order to get the supplemental.”

While some negotiators say there’s been progress on certain issues, the two sides currently can’t agree on whether they’re still negotiating: Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), a lead GOP negotiator, told reporters last night the talks are ongoing, but Sen. Chirs Murphy (D-CT), a lead Democratic negotiator, said they’ve been on hold for days.

But some lawmakers believe a failed vote on the package on Wednesday could help jump-start talks.

Further complicating matters, the Congressional Progressive Caucus issued a statement yesterday that most of their members will vote against any funding package including GOP immigration policies, meaning that any bill the Senate negotiates will likely have a narrow path to victory in the House, given growing skepticism of Ukraine aid among conservatives. 

House Republicans are also reportedly demanding that most of their sweeping party-line immigration bill be included, which will be a nonstarter with Democrats.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) said on Monday that the White House has “failed to substantively address any of my conference’s legitimate concerns” around Ukraine aid, despite other recent comments indicating he supports aiding Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the progressive senators who have led the charge in favor of adding conditions on the aid package for Israel were vague yesterday about where those efforts stand.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) told Jewish Insider lawmakers were “working on it as we speak,” while Sen. Peter Welch (D-VT) told JI “it’s a work in progress.” Neither senator would say whether they see widespread support in the caucus for their effort.

Sanders took to the Senate floor Monday to say that he opposes the supplemental bill in its current form because it provides additional aid to Israel, days after another speech laying out his expectations for conditions.

The White House said yesterday that it will run out of resources for Ukraine by the end of the year, while lawmakers have said that Israel also urgently needs additional support. Congress is set to be in session for just two more weeks before the holidays, with numerous pressing issues to settle.

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