looking ahead

Senate unlikely to amend House foreign aid bill

‘I can’t imagine we’re going to amend the bill,’ Sen. Chris Murphy told JI, emphasizing, ‘We need to get that bill passed as soon as it gets here’

Aaron Schwartz/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer speaks to the media during a weekly press conference in the Capitol Building in Washington DC, on Tuesday, March 12, 2024.

Senate progressives are unlikely to try to amend the House-passed foreign aid bill to place conditions or other restrictions on U.S. aid to Israel, two Democratic lawmakers predicted on Friday, even though Democratic criticism of Israeli operations has grown increasingly intense in the months since the Senate originally passed an aid package.

The foreign aid package passed the House on Saturday, with a 366 to 58 vote on the Israel portion, and now proceeds as one bill to the Senate, which is likely to move quickly to pass it, with procedural votes scheduled for Tuesday, skipping part of its scheduled Passover recess. The first scheduled vote would block further amendments.

“I can’t imagine we’re going to amend the bill,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), who has been critical of Israel’s operations in Gaza, told Jewish Insider. “We’ve got a national security memorandum from the president that’s pretty clear about the conditions Israel needs to meet to get aid. We need to get this bill passed as soon as it gets here.”

“I can’t speak to every member, I can tell you I’m pretty confident it [the supplemental] will end up as it comes over to us,” Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, agreed. 

Cardin said there were “two reasons” for this, the first being that he doesn’t believe amendments “would pass here in the Senate,” and the second being that Democratic leadership won’t “be taking up something that could jeopardize passage of the supplemental.”

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) responded vaguely when asked if he expected any Democrats to introduce amendments conditioning aid to Israel, saying, “We’ve got to wait and see what the House does first.”

Among Republicans, it’s not clear whether the House’s blessing on the bill will convince any Republicans who previously opposed the foreign aid package to now support it.

One GOP senator who serves on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) leadership team told JI on condition of anonymity that they expected to see Republicans who were “on the fence” about how to vote feeling “probably more likely to vote for” the supplemental if it passes the House with a strong number of Republican votes.

The senator added that they were referring to senators who are more amenable to voting for Ukraine aid, members who understand “the national security implications right there, our relationships with our NATO partners and allies.”

Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) suggested that he’s satisfied with the 70-vote margin the foreign aid package received earlier this year in the Senate and expects the next vote to be similar.

“We had… 70 last time. That’s pretty overwhelming, in this day and age,” Rounds said. “I would hope that it would be there, or maybe a little bit better. But I’ll take 70.”

Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) said he’s still opposed to the bill as long as it contains “money that Biden could actually give to Hamas” — an apparent reference to the humanitarian aid for the Palestinians.

Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) said that the House including “as much of HR.2 as you can get” in the final package “would [have made] it more apt to where you drag some [Republican votes] along.” HR.2 is a hard-line GOP immigration bill that some Republicans had demanded be linked to foreign aid, but is not part of the House package.

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