The US Senate early on Tuesday morning passed a national security bill, by 70 votes to 29, which mainly includes foreign military aid – chiefly to Ukraine – and is worth $95bn.
“Today, the Senate made sure that the United States is closer to meeting the monumental and consequential moment that we are in,” said Chuck Schumer, the Democratic majority leader in the US Senate. “Now, it’s up to the House to meet this moment, to do the right thing and save democracy as we know it. Questions?”
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But the Republican House speaker, Mike Johnson, has already in effect rejected the bill in its current form, making its future highly uncertain.
Here’s what you need to know about what happened, and what lies ahead.
What’s in the bill?
Ukraine: About $60bn would go to supporting Ukraine. The country would receive nearly $14bn to rearm itself through the purchase of weapons and munitions, and nearly $15bn for support services, such as military training and intelligence sharing. About $8bn would go to help Ukraine’s government continue basic operations (with a prohibition on money going toward pensions). There’s also about $1.6bn to help Ukraine’s private sector and about $480m to help Ukrainians displaced by the war.
About a third of the money allocated to supporting Ukraine will actually be spent replenishing the US military, which has been depleted by the weapons and equipment being sent to Kyiv.
Israel: About $14.1bn would go to support Israeli and US military operations in the region. About $4bn would go to boost Israel’s air defenses, with another $1.2bn for Iron Beam, a laser weapons system designed to intercept and destroy missiles. About $2.5bn of the total is for US military operations.
Humanitarian assistance: The legislation contains $9.2bn in humanitarian assistance to provide food, water, shelter and medical care to civilians in Gaza and the West Bank, Ukraine and war zones around the world.
China: More than $8bn in the bill would go to support key partners in the Indo-Pacific region and deter aggression by the Chinese government. The bill includes about $1.9bn to replenish US weapons provided to Taiwan, and about $3.3bn to build more US-made submarines in support of a security partnership with Australia and the United Kingdom.
Other provisions: The bill includes about $400m for a grant program that helps non-profits and places of worship make security enhancements and protect themselves from hate crimes. There’s also language that would target sanctions on criminal organizations involved in the production of fentanyl.
Why are House Republicans threatening to stop the bill’s passage?
A few major reasons: Donald Trump, immigration and changing views on Ukraine.
Beginning last year, conservatives insisted that the foreign aid package must be tied to border security measures. A trio of senators drafted a bipartisan proposal that many conservative commentators hailed as the most severe border clampdown in decades. But Donald Trump, the likely Republican presidential nominee, was wary of handing anything resembling a political victory to President Joe Biden. Trump lashed out against the border deal, and his allies on Capitol Hill lined up against it.
Last week, after Senate Republicans blocked a version of the bill that included border security, Schumer stripped it out and moved ahead with a narrowly tailored foreign aid package. But in a sign of pure dysfunction, many House Republicans now say the bill needs to include border funding – again.
There’s also a split on if, and how, to send funds to Ukraine. According to Punchbowl News, “many Republicans support axing nearly $8bn in Ukrainian economic support from the bill while maintaining lethal aid”, a move that was attempted but deflected in the Senate. Other House Republicans are outright opposed to continuing support for Ukraine.
Is there any Democratic opposition?
In the Senate, which voted decisively for the aid package, there were some voices of dissent. A handful of leftwing senators, including Bernie Sanders, objected to the inclusion of billions of dollars of military aid to Israel, as the Palestinian death toll from the war in Gaza nears 30,000.
There is likely to be even more friction in the House, where progressives including Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have been calling for conditions to be applied to any Israel aid. While some humanitarian aid for Gaza is included in the bill, that may fall short of what some members of Congress deem acceptable.
What happens next?
In a normal scenario, Johnson would now bring the bill to the House floor for a vote. That could extend into the end of February because of the current legislative schedule.
But Johnson’s opposition suggests he may not even do that – and if not, Democrats have signaled a willingness to use something called a discharge petition, a last-resort tool to force a House vote. That route could also take at least a month, and would require some Republican support – and of course still does not guarantee that the House would actually pass the bill.
• Associated Press contributed to this report