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Senate clears hurdle to passing aid package for Ukraine, Israel as more GOP lawmakers sign on

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In a rare Super Bowl Sunday vote, the Senate voted to push forward an aid package for Ukraine, Israel, and other U.S. allies, clearing a key hurdle as 18 GOP lawmakers have signed on. 

The package would provide $60 billion for Ukraine, mostly to purchase U.S.-made defense equipment, including munitions and air defense systems that authorities say it desperately needs as Russia batters the country. It includes $8 billion for the government in Kyiv and other assistance.

It would also provide $14 billion for Israel’s war with Hamas, $8 billion for Taiwan and partners in the Indo-Pacific to counter China, and $9.2 billion in humanitarian assistance for Gaza.

Senate leaders argued that the money was crucial to pushing back against Russian President Vladimir Putin and maintaining America’s global standing.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky warned about the consequences of abandoning longtime U.S. allies in Europe.

McConnell said in his opening remarks that ‘American leadership matters, and it is in question.’ Schumer said Putin is ‘all too likely to succeed’ if America doesn’t assist Ukraine. 

The 67-27 test vote Sunday on the $95.3 billion foreign aid package comes as former President Trump, the front-runner for the Republican nomination, is trying to kill the assistance and has escalated his attacks on the NATO military alliance.

The day before the vote, Trump said at a campaign rally in South Carolina that Russia should be able to do ‘whatever the hell they want’ to NATO members who do not meet their defense spending targets. 

While McConnell has made Ukraine a top issue, an increasing number of members in his GOP conference have followed Trump’s lead in opposing the aid. 

The Senate is pushing through several procedural votes on the slimmed-down package after an attempt to pair it with legislation to stem migration at the U.S. border collapsed. Objections from Republicans adamantly opposed to the aid have delayed quick action, forcing the weekend votes as negotiations continue over potential amendments to the legislation.

Schumer has said he is open to amendments -– most of which would be likely to fail -– but he forced senators to stay in session through the weekend to try and speed up the process.

‘I can’t remember the last time the Senate was in session on Super Bowl Sunday,’ Schumer said as he opened the session. ‘But as I’ve said all week long, we’re going to keep working on this bill until the job is done.’

In a key vote last week, 17 Republican senators agreed to start debate on the bill and 31 voted against it, giving McConnell and other Republican supporters of the aid new hope that it could pass. 

But even if the Senate does pass the package, its future is deeply uncertain in the House, where a large majority of GOP lawmakers are firmly allied with Trump.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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