on the hill

Senate passes Israel, Ukraine aid bill by 79-18 vote

Senate Republican support for the bill expanded, with a majority of Republican senators now supporting the national security legislation

Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) departs from the Senate Chambers in the U.S. Capitol Building on March 14, 2024 in Washington, D.C.

The Senate passed by a 79-18 vote a $95 billion aid bill for Israel and other U.S. allies on Tuesday, with 15 Republicans and three Democrats voting against.

The House-passed bill, which is largely similar to the bill passed by the Senate earlier this year, picked up nine more votes from Senate Republicans, now securing support from the majority of the conference. Meanwhile, Democratic support remained the same, despite growing progressive criticism of Israel.

The bill, which the Senate did not amend, now moves to the president’s desk, finally unlocking additional aid to Israel, Ukraine and other allies after months of delays and infighting on Capitol Hill.

The bill includes $14.3 billion in U.S. aid to Israel, as well as humanitarian aid for Gaza and support for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, new U.S. sanctions on Iran and its proxies and legislation to force TikTok’s Chinese parent company to sell the app.

Among Republicans, Sens. Katie Britt (R-AL), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Steve Daines (R-MT), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), James Lankford (R-OK), Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) and Pete Ricketts (R-NE) voted in support of foreign aid package after voting against it when the Senate initially considered a foreign aid package. 

Among Democrats, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Peter Welch (D-VT) again voted against the foreign aid bill due to opposition to Israel funding. Sanders had intended to put forward an amendment cutting offensive aid to Israel but was blocked from doing so.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who’s been vocally critical of the isolationist faction of his party, spoke to reporters on Tuesday afternoon after a procedural vote on the aid package, again condemning GOP isolationists and declaring victory for traditional conservative foreign policy.

“I think all of these views have been enhanced, in my opinion, in the right direction,” McConnell said, pointing to the expanded GOP support for the aid package. “I think we’ve turned the corner on the isolationist movement… I think we’ve made some progress and I think it’s going to have to continue.”

He specifically condemned former Fox News host Tucker Carlson as a key pusher of the “demonization of Ukraine” among Republicans.  “He had an enormous audience, which convinced a lot of rank and file Republicans that maybe this was a mistake,” McConnell continued.

McConnell said he believes former President Donald Trump has “sort of mixed views on it.”

Ricketts, in a statement explaining his support for the bill, did not make any mention of aid to Ukraine, instead highlighting the TikTok legislation, sanctions on Iran and aid for Israel. Daines highlighted the same provisions, as well as said that the bill would require the administration “to articulate a winning strategy in Ukraine.” Daines lamented the lack of border security provisions in the bill.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who again voted against the aid package but has positioned himself as a national security hawk, said in a floor speech that, while he supports Ukraine funding “the invasion of America across our southern border is even more, important, even more a severe threat,” and described the bill as “legislative blackmail.”

He said he would only vote for Ukraine funding if the administration issues executive orders regarding border security, an issue he linked to anti-Israel protests around the country, although there’s little evidence that such protests are being orchestrated or primarily attended by undocumented immigrants.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), one of the most outspoken Israel hawks in the Senate, said in a statement that voting against the bill is “one of the toughest votes I’ve cast during my years in the Senate” and a “close call.”

But he said he ultimately opposed it due to humanitarian aid, which he said would ultimately support terrorism in Gaza, support for nonprofits supporting undocumented immigrants and a lack of action on border security.

“I can’t continue to allocate funds to secure Ukraine’s border before we secure our own,” Cruz said.

Both Rubio and Cruz voted against a bipartisan compromise bill including foreign aid and border legislation negotiated by Senate lawmakers after Trump announced his opposition.

Rubio and Cruz, as well as Sens. John Barrasso (R-WY), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Mike Braun (R-IN), Ted Budd (R-NC), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Mike Lee (R-UT), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Eric Schmitt (R-MO), Rick Scott (R-FL), and J.D. Vance (R-OH) voted against the bill.

In a lengthy statement, Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), a vocal opponent of unconditioned aid to Israel, said he voted for the bill “despite certain reservations” because “on balance, this legislation provides the necessary resources to support the people of Ukraine and advance important American priorities at home and around the world.” 

Van Hollen said he had proposed an amendment that would have restored U.S. aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and would have “insisted” on conditions on aid to Israel if the vote had been on military aid to Israel alone.

Subscribe now to
the Daily Kickoff

The politics and business news you need to stay up to date, delivered each morning in a must-read newsletter.