A bipartisan national security and border package did not clear a key procedural hurdle in the Senate Wednesday, paving the way for lawmakers to consider the national security provisions on their own.
The Senate did not invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to the bill, which would provide $118.3 billion in aid for Ukraine, Israel and Indo-Pacific allies alongside a slew of immigration policy changes. The vote was 49-50, falling short of the required 60-vote threshold.
The Senate plans to move forward later on Wednesday with an $95.3 billion amended version of the package that omits the border security agreement struck by a team of bipartisan negotiators after months of talks. Democratic leaders hope the national security-only version will earn enough Republican support to pass.
“We’re gonna give them both options,” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., told reporters before the vote. “We’ll take either one, we just hope they can come to yes on something.”
Schumer promised a “fair and open process” on amendments if the Senate votes to proceed on the package.
A Senate Democratic aide familiar with the plan said Schumer has the ability under the rules to offer a motion to reconsider a previous motion to take up the bill with an amendment, since he filed cloture on the motion to proceed to the underlying shell vehicle. If Schumer had called up the motion to proceed to the bill again using his motion to reconsider available since December’s rejected cloture vote, this option would not have been available.
Republicans have insisted for months that they would only support additional aid for Ukraine if it was accompanied with tougher border security provisions. But after a clear majority of Republicans swiftly came out against the border agreement following its release over the weekend, Democrats were forced to change their approach.
Several defense-minded Republicans suggested that they want to see the national security provisions advance without the border agreement.
The U.S. has exhausted its available authority to send weapons to Ukraine, and Israel has not had an influx of U.S. aid since the war against Hamas began in October. The revised package also includes provisions aimed at shoring up Taiwan’s military resources and bolstering the defense industrial base.
“There are other parts of this supplemental that are extremely important as well — Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Tuesday. “We still, in my view, ought to tackle the rest of it, because it’s important. Not that the border isn’t important, but we can’t get an outcome. So that’s where I think we’re going to head.”
However, it’s not clear whether a bill that doesn’t include border security language would get a vote in the House. Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., has said repeatedly that he’s not interested in passing Ukraine aid without also addressing record-high migration at the U.S.-Mexico border. Though, he has also said the Senate package with border provisions would be “dead on arrival” in the House.
Johnson tried to pass a $17.6 billion package that included only funding for Israel and ongoing military operations in the Middle East on Tuesday, but that measure did not get the two-thirds majority required to pass it under suspension of the rules.
House Democrats could try to force a vote through a discharge petition, but such a move would require some Republicans to break with their leadership.
In the Senate, many Republicans still planned to vote against the “clean” supplemental, citing concerns about moving Ukraine aid without border provisions. Although most GOP senators say they support aiding Kyiv in theory, a growing number have balked at the prospect of another $60 billion in Ukraine-related funding.
“I can’t go back to people and say, ‘Yeah, we funded Ukraine, but we didn’t do anything about the border,’” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
Other Republicans jumped at the opportunity to vote for Ukraine and Israel aid without the baggage of immigration policy changes.
“I think that anybody that thinks that there will not be a consequence, a negative consequence, in history over this vote, needs to really study up on history,” said Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., who plans to vote yes on the sans-border supplemental. “Which is why I’m going to try and do my part to not be on that dark page of history.”
Caitlin Reilly and Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.