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Senate GOP helps advance borderless foreign aid bill

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The Senate advanced the national security supplemental delivering tens of billions of dollars in aid to Ukraine, Taiwan and Israel, putting the legislation on the potential path to passage in the coming days.

After months of bipartisan handwringing, enough Republican senators voted to advance the bill to put it over the 60-vote threshold, after they rejected a version that included border policy changes on Wednesday. But there’s a ways to go yet — senators are still negotiating the terms of eventual passage.

Schumer described the vote as a “good first step,” but said leadership has yet to reach an agreement with Senate Republicans on amendments. That leaves timing for the final passage in limbo.

“For the information of senators, we are going to keep working on this bill until the job is done,” Schumer said, in a not-so-subtle threat to keep senators in over the weekend, or until the supplemental is passed in full.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), in characteristic fashion, said Thursday he is planning to object to any attempts to speed up passage of the aid bill unless it addresses the southern border in a way he finds adequate.

“There seems to be a lot of willingness by the Democrats to give us amendments,” Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) said Thursday. “It’s whether we can get everyone [in the GOP] around a strategy of supporting a certain menu of amendments. I think the answer there is going to be no.”

Seventeen Republican senators voted to advance the legislation, and GOP leaders are hoping some hawkish Republicans will flip their votes on final passage. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who caucuses with Democrats, was the only non-Republican to vote against advancing the bill.

The Republican senators who supported advancing the legislation were: GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Whip John Thune of South Dakota, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Joni Ernst of Iowa, John Kennedy of Louisiana, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Dan Sullivan of Alaska, Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Todd Young of Indiana, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Mike Rounds of South Dakota, John Cornyn of Texas, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Jerry Moran of Kansas.

The Senate is slated to leave town this weekend for a two-week recess after five straight weeks in session. Multiple members have trips planned abroad or other weekend engagements they’re itching to get to. But there is a growing sense among senators that if they want to ever finish work on the aid bill, they could be subject to multiple rounds of amendment votes over the weekend absent an agreement among 100 senators.

Those votes would likely be subject to a 60-vote threshold, meaning they’d be difficult to pass. if they were adopted, they could change the underlying bill so much that final passage would become more uncertain.

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) said leaders should accommodate senators who want to improve the bill and potentially vote for it, rather than opponents who just want failed amendment votes — unless there’s an agreement to speed things up.

Despite almost universally rejecting a bipartisan deal on border policy changes, many GOP senators are still unwilling to advance Ukraine aid unless it’s in exchange for more conservative immigration changes that they would prefer. Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), who negotiated that previous bipartisan deal, said Thursday that he’s not yet sure whether he’d vote to advance the bill.

The other option is that the foreign assistance bill fails in the Senate — and the bipartisan priorities of Ukraine and Israel aid along with it. It’s not clear whether Senate leadership would then be willing to break the package up into standalone pieces, which is what House Republican leadership has pushed for some time.

Democratic leadership has stressed that it will keep senators in town until the supplemental is resolved.

“The plane hasn’t landed. We’re circling the airport. We’re not sure what airport we’re circling,” said Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.). “We’re still talking … the conference is split.”