Senate votes to advance Israel aid bill, with final passage expected this week

Eighteen Republicans voted in favor of advancing the aid bill, which is being slowed by Sen. Rand Paul

J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), center, arrives as the Senate moves toward a procedural vote on an emergency spending package that would provide military aid to Ukraine and Israel, replenish U.S. weapons systems and provide food, water and other humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza, at the Capitol in Washington, Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024.

The Senate voted 67-27 on Sunday afternoon to further advance the supplemental aid package for Israel, Ukraine and other U.S. allies, setting up final passage by Wednesday.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has slowed the process to pass the bill, vowing to delay a final vote on the package for as long as possible. Paul’s tactics have so far also blocked potential votes on proposed amendments to the aid bill. But, with the support of 18 Republicans on Sunday’s vote, the bill is expected to pass the Senate comfortably.

Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Susan Collins (R-ME), John Cornyn (R-TX), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), John Kennedy (R-LA), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), John Thune (R-SD), Thom Tillis (R-N), Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Todd Young (R-IN) voted for the bill. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) voted against.

The bill’s fate in the House remains unclear, but Tillis said he’s been in conversation with House colleagues about a possible bipartisan path to force a vote on the bill if House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) refuses to bring it to the floor. 

The package continues to receive strong support from the Jewish community. On Friday, the Republican Jewish Coalition announced its support for the funding bill, calling it “not perfect” but urging senators to support further procedural votes on the legislation.

“As Republicans, we believe that America is obligated to stand by our allies when they are under attack,” the RJC’s statement read.

Nathan Diament, the executive director for public policy at the Orthodox Union, urged the Senate to “move more expeditiously” to pass the bill in response to a report that its passage is likely still several days away.

The votes of the 18 Republicans in favor of advancing the package also come as former President Donald Trump has continued to escalate his rhetoric criticizing U.S. allies, including posting on Saturday that the Senate should not pass any further foreign aid, except as a loan or with “‘strings’ attached,” describing any other approach as “stupid.”

The former president also dismissed the U.S.’ mutual defense commitments to NATO allies and said he’d encourage Russia to “do whatever the hell they want” to NATO allies that don’t spend enough on their own defense.

Although the Senate still hasn’t agreed on a deal that would have allowed votes on amendments to the package, that hasn’t stopped senators from proposing a slew of amendments.

Sens. Peter Welch (D-VT), Bernie Sanders (D-IL), Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) sought to prevent any funding from the bill from providing Israel with bombs for use in Gaza. Sanders and Welch also aimed to remove all offensive military aid to Israel from the bill.

Sens. Ted Budd (R-NC) and Ernst introduced separate amendments that would partially or fully halt U.S. aid to Palestinians until all hostages are released from Gaza. Sens. Pete Ricketts (R-NE) and Tim Scott (R-SC) introduced an amendment prohibiting any future U.S. contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), while Scott and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) sought to block U.S. contributions to the U.N. until UNRWA is disbanded.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) sought to cut off U.S. aid to the U.N. until the body recognizes Hamas, Hezbollah and all other Iranian terror proxies as terrorist groups. 

Sanders, on the other hand, put forward an amendment removing the bill’s prohibition on aid to UNRWA.

Following new revelations this weekend that a Hamas data center had been located under UNRWA’s headquarters in Gaza, Cruz accused the U.N. agency of “knowingly providing material support” for Hamas, and vowing to introduce legislation to subject anyone, including Americans, who “knowingly funded UNRWA” to sanctions and criminal prosecution.

Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rick Scott (R-FL) introduced an amendment to cut off U.S. aid to the Palestinians until the administration can certify that no U.S. funding will benefit any individuals associated with a terror group.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced an amendment seeking to block the use of funding provided in the legislation “to facilitate the use of military force against Iran, including any deployments to forward operating bases in Iraq and Syria, absent express authorization from Congress.” 

Sen. Eric Schmitt (R-MO) proposed an amendment that would have restructured the package along the lines of the original $14.3 billion Israel bill the House passed last year, including cuts from the Internal Revenue Service.

Rubio also pushed for amendments that would implement the provisions of a House-passed bill cutting off immigration to the U.S. by participants in the Oct. 7 attack and members of the Palestine Liberation Organization, and another House-passed bill imposing new sanctions on Hamas’ international backers.

Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Welch, Merkley and Tim Kaine (D-VA) proposed an amendment to provide $10 million to the Department of State to probe reports of civilian deaths caused by U.S.-provided weapons.

Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA), Rounds, Jack Reed (D-RI) and Romney introduced an amendment that would implement their legislation seeking to crack down on terrorist financing, particularly through cryptocurrencies.

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