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By KATHARINE WILSON
Capital News Service
WASHINGTON – Maryland Democratic Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen have criticized Republican colleagues for blocking the bipartisan package that included border security and military aid to Ukraine.
Now aid to Ukraine and Israel has new life as senators on Thursday voted 67-32 to advance consideration of the foreign aid package without an immigration component. Cardin and Van Hollen were among the “yes” votes.
“We simply cannot allow this impasse to undermine our commitments to support Ukraine, Israel, and our partners in the Indo-Pacific,” Cardin said in a Wednesday statement.
The Senate failed on a procedural vote earlier Wednesday to take up the $118 billion supplemental spending bill after Republicans effectively killed the immigration reform measures aimed at addressing the massive influx of people along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Republicans had initially refused to consider a Ukraine aid spending bill unless it was tied to immigration reform. That included House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-Louisiana, who had suggested the pairing as far back as a November Fox News interview. This insistence fell away Tuesday when Republican senators declared that the package was “dead” after a negative review by former President Donald Trump.
“We can’t give up, it’s too important to our national security,” Cardin insisted as Republican support for the original bipartisan bill faded.
The supplemental spending measure being considered by the Senate includes $60 billion to support Ukraine, $14 billion for Israel security assistance and $9 billion for humanitarian assistance in Palestinian territory and Ukraine. The package also includes sanctions against individuals involved in dealing fentanyl.
Cardin, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, expressed frustration with Senate Republicans as GOP support for the earlier bill with immigration reforms evaporated.
“The failure to move this bipartisan funding package forward represents both a dereliction of American leadership on the world stage and a refusal to uphold our responsibilities to secure the integrity of our borders at home,” Cardin said in a statement Wednesday.
Cardin added: “I fear the consequences of deserting our allies abroad and turning our backs on critical immigration reform merely for political exploitation will have real and far-reaching implications.”
The European Union announced a $54 billion aid relief package for Ukraine last week, but Cardin said that Europe’s action wasn’t enough.
“Europe has stepped up, we have to step up,” Cardin said Tuesday. “It affects not only our position for Ukraine, but our global influence and credibility.”
Van Hollen said in a post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, that every time Republicans make new requirements to pass Ukraine funding, “autocrats of the world celebrate” – naming Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping.
“They’re eager to see the US back down from the fight for democracy — and most Republicans are apparently happy to oblige,” Van Hollen said in the post.
The now-failed Immigration would have given $20 billion to increase the operational needs of the U.S. Border Patrol. The bill’s reform policies included barring illegal border crossings – detaining and deporting those who attempt to cross instead of processing and screening migrants – if they hit an average of 5,000 average crossings a day in a given week.
The bill also would have allowed officers to decide asylum cases at the border and increase requirements for asylum. The package was endorsed by the National Border Patrol Council, the union for Border Patrol agents.
Cardin called this border reform “critical” in a Wednesday statement.
Sen. Rick Scott, R-Florida, said in a news conference with other Republican senators Tuesday that he wouldn’t vote on any bill that codified what he calls Biden’s “open border policy” or that would give humanitarian aid money to Gaza.
Scott added that while many in his party want Ukraine to win and Russia to lose, they have different views on if and how funding should be sent.
He also pushed for the Republican conference to get together to make a bill that would get passed, claiming that this bipartisan deal was made behind closed doors by leadership.
“Why don’t we start coming together as a conference to get something done?” Scott said.
The package was negotiated by Sens. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma, Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, and Kyrsten Sinema, I-Arizona. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, initially endorsed the bipartisan immigration bill but reversed himself as fellow GOP senators raised objections.
Many Democrats in both houses said GOP lawmakers who rejected the immigration-foreign aid package were doing the bidding of Trump. Republicans, including Johnson, denied that.
Trump called the border legislation a “death wish” for Republicans and called for a separate border and immigration bill Monday on Truth Social.
But Cardin said Wednesday that the immigration bill collapse “makes clear that there are those in this legislative body who will prioritize fidelity to Donald Trump and his personal interests over the safety and security of our country and the global community.”
The revived Senate package still faces potential procedural delays and Republican amendments. And it is unclear if the narrow Republican majority in the House will agree to the new legislation stripped of immigration reforms.