U.S. Senate votes on bipartisan border security bill that would also provide aid to Ukraine and Israel, in Washington

Senate votes to begin last-ditch effort to approve funding for Ukraine and Israel

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate on Thursday voted to begin work on a package of wartime funding for Ukraine and other U.S. allies, but doubts remained about support from Republicans who rejected a carefully negotiated compromise that also included border enforcement policies.

A vote to begin work on the new package cleared on a 67-32 vote, but the legislation’s path remained uncertain. Senate leaders had not agreed to a process to limit the debate time for the bill.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called the vote a “good first step” and pledged that the Senate would “keep working on this bill — until the job is done.”

The New York Democrat has tried to salvage $60 billion in aid for Ukraine, as well as roughly $35 billion for Israel, other allies and national security priorities, after the collapse this week of a bipartisan agreement to tie border enforcement policies to the package. Republicans are divided about how to proceed, and GOP leaders were still scrambling to find a plan that their senators could back.

Senate Republicans were fractured and frustrated as Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky tried to find a way to squeeze the assistance for Ukraine through Congress. If the measure passes the Senate, it is expected to be even more difficult to win approval in the Republican-controlled House, where Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., has been noncommittal on the aid.

WATCH: What’s next for border policy, Ukraine aid after Senate Republicans block bipartisan bill

Some Republicans in the Senate have also vowed to do everything they could to delay final action.

“I’ll object to anything speeding up this rotten foreign spending bill’s passage,” said Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, on X.

The U.S. is already out of money to send missiles and ammunition to Kyiv, just as the nearly two-year-old war reaches a crucial juncture. Ukraine supporters say the drop-off in U.S. support is already being felt on the battlefield and by civilians. Russia has renewed its commitment to the invasion with relentless attacks.

“There are people in Ukraine right now, in the height of their winter, in trenches, being bombed and being killed,” said Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C.

Yet many of his Republican colleagues have expressed serious reservations about supporting a new round of funding for Ukraine. Even after rejecting the bipartisan border plan as insufficient, they have again insisted on tying border measures to the foreign aid.

“My priority is border security. It’s always been border security. I think we need a new bill,” said Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan.

It took Senate negotiators roughly three months of nearly round-the-clock work to craft the border proposal rejected by Republican senators — some of whom announced their opposition within minutes of the bill text being released.

As the deal collapsed, Schumer, a New York Democrat, moved to strip the border provisions from the legislation and create the standalone $95 billion package. It would send $14 billion in military aid to Israel, invest in domestic defense manufacturing, provide funding for allies in Asia, and allot $10 billion for humanitarian efforts in Ukraine, Israel, Gaza and other places.

The revamped package includes legislation to authorize sanctions and anti-money laundering tools against criminal enterprises that traffic fentanyl into the U.S. A separate section of the compromise border legislation that would have provided a long-awaited pathway to residency for tens of thousands of Afghan refugees was dropped in the slimmed-down bill.