Senate to try again after more Republican chaos scuppers foreign aid and immigration bill

Washington DC - Senate Democrats are due to make a fresh attempt Thursday to secure funding for Ukraine and Israel's war on Gaza after a first vote on a multi-billion-dollar aid package failed amid Republican chaos.

Senate Republicans and Democrats, led by Mitch McConnell (l.) and Chuck Schumer respectively, could not agree on a foreign aid and immigration bill on Wednesday.
Senate Republicans and Democrats, led by Mitch McConnell (l.) and Chuck Schumer respectively, could not agree on a foreign aid and immigration bill on Wednesday.  © Collage: REUTERS

Democratic President Joe Biden had been pushing for $60 billion for Kyiv as part of a sweeping foreign aid and immigration bill that included draconian border security measures that the GOP has been demanding for months.

But Republicans blocked the $118 billion package Wednesday after coming under pressure from former President Donald Trump to leave the country's border crisis for him to campaign on as an election issue.

That led to an hours-long standoff in the upper chamber of Congress, resolved only when party leaders elected to schedule a new vote that puts immigration on the back burner and calls for $95 billion in aid, mostly for Ukraine's defense against the Russian invasion and Israel's brutal assault on Palestinians in Gaza.

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Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the Senate would reconvene at noon on Thursday "to give our Republican colleagues the night to figure themselves out" – but the showdown had angered his rank-and-file.

New Jersey's Senator Cory Booker said he was appalled to watch Republicans "create more problems and chaos by abandoning a good-faith negotiation" because of Trump's pressure.

"This is some of the worst of Washington I've seen," he thundered.

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Ex-President Donald Trump has been pushing Republicans to reject any compromise bill with Democrats.
Ex-President Donald Trump has been pushing Republicans to reject any compromise bill with Democrats.  © REUTERS

Wednesday's failed vote capped an extraordinary period of dysfunction in Congress, with many Republicans in thrall to Trump's election ambitions and desperate to avoid handing Biden any wins, even if it means sabotaging their own priorities.

The party's contingent controlling the House of Representatives was embarrassed by back-to-back defeats Tuesday on impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and an aid package for Israel that raised questions over its ability even to count votes.

Much of the current chaos has been blamed on Trump, who looks almost certain to be the Republican standard-bearer in November despite being embroiled in scores of criminal charges.

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Senate Republicans originally demanded the harshest crackdown on immigration in generations as a condition for supporting Ukraine as it battles a full-scale invasion by Russia launched in 2022.

But a bipartisan compromise in which Democrats acceded to virtually every Republican demand – even as human rights advocates warned of a worsening humanitarian crisis on the Southern border – began to look shaky within days of its weekend release, as Trump warned lawmakers to reject it in order to avoid handing Biden a perceived "win".

Biden, who has long since abandoned the "humane immigration process" he campaigned on, accused Trump on Tuesday of seeking to "weaponize" the border crisis and urged Republicans to consider whether their job was to serve the billionaire or ordinary voters.

Cover photo: Collage: REUTERS

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