on the hill

Senate Dems continue ‘discussing’ conditions on aid to Israel, as supplemental shows signs of movement

‘For the first time, I’m optimistic’ about passing supplemental aid for Israel and Ukraine through the upper chamber, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said

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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) makes a statement alongside House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) outside of the West Wing at the White House on January 17, 2024 in Washington, DC.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said on Wednesday that Senate Democrats are continuing to discuss the possibility of adding conditions on U.S. aid to Israel, as lawmakers indicated that they could be close to a deal to allow an emergency aid package to U.S. allies to move forward.

“On conditions, our caucus is discussing it, and will continue to look for the best way forward,” Schumer said at a press conference in Washington. “But as I’ve said, there are four goals that we have when it comes to the war in Gaza.” Those goals, he continued, are reducing the threat from Hamas, freeing the hostages, humanitarian aid to the Palestinians and working with Israel to reduce the number of civilian casualties.

Schumer’s remarks echo comments he made on the same issue in November, and did not appear to point to any new developments or shifts in support for conditions.

Firm supporters of conditions continue to make up a small minority of the Democratic caucus, although a few others have indicated they are undecided. Thirteen of the 51 caucus members have said they support an amendment conditioning U.S. aid. Democrats debated the issue behind closed doors prior to their December recess. 

Schumer’s comments came amid the first indications in weeks of progress in the Senate for an emergency aid bill for Israel, Ukraine and other U.S. allies, which has been held up by Republican demands for broad changes to U.S. immigration policy.

“I am really hopeful that negotiations are [headed] in the right direction. We are closer than we have ever been,” Schumer said. “For the first time, I’m optimistic. For the first time, I think the chances of getting it done in the Senate are greater than not getting it done. This is good news.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said the Senate could move forward with the bill as soon as next week.

Top lawmakers from both chambers met with President Joe Biden at the White House on Wednesday afternoon, and suggested positive progress. 

House Republicans, who had suggested they’d reject any Senate-negotiated immigration deal that did not include the full House-passed immigration bill, known as HR 2, indicated that they may have softened that position.

“We’re not insistent upon a particular name of a piece of legislation, but we are insistent that the elements have to be meaningful,” House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) said after the meeting. In a CNN interview later on Wednesday, he said the House would reject any deal that “does not solve the problem and secure the border.”

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) told reporters Biden said he is prepared to make “significant changes” to border policy and acknowledged that the border is “broken,” without making any specific commitments.

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