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US Senate blocks $111bn funding bill for Israel, Ukraine

December 7, 2023 at 4:57 pm

A view of room as U.S. Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Christopher Asher Wray testify at an oversight hearing by the Senate Judiciary Committee in the Hart Senate Office Building on December 5, 2023, in Washington, DC [Celal Güneş – Anadolu Agency]

In a surprising turn of events, US Senate Republicans yesterday thwarted a bill aimed at providing aid to Israel and Ukraine, citing concerns over the absence of adequate border provisions within the measure.

The vote- 49-51-failed to meet the 60-vote threshold required for the proposal to proceed for consideration. Notably, Senator Bernie Sanders joined every Republican in opposing the measure.

The proposed $111 billion emergency supplemental package, requested by President Joe Biden, encompassed aid for Ukraine, Israel, the Indo-Pacific region, as well as funding for humanitarian aid in Gaza, border security and combatting fentanyl trafficking.

The impasse has led to frustration on both sides, Democrats questioning why Ukraine aid was being held up due to disagreements over a border package. Concerns were also raised about whether border issues were being exploited by some Republicans to obstruct funding for Ukraine.

Even with Republicans expressing significant reservations regarding the border provisions of the bill, Sanders has raised criticism over the $10 billion earmarked for Israel’s aid. In a letter circulated among his colleagues on Tuesday, the progressive senator from Vermont cautioned against providing an unrestricted financial commitment to Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, especially as the casualty count rises in Gaza.

READ: Accused of ‘Genocide’ in Gaza: US debates sending $14bn in additional aid to Israel

Sanders expressed his opposition, stating: “No, I do not believe we should allocate $10.1 billion to support the current military strategy of the right-wing, extremist Netanyahu government. The actions undertaken by the Netanyahu government are morally objectionable, breach international law, and the United States should not be endorsing such behaviour.”

President Biden, yesterday, expressed a renewed willingness to reach a compromise, stating that he is open to making “significant compromises” on border policy to unlock funding for Ukraine amid its ongoing conflict with Russia. Biden acknowledged the need for changes in the broken immigration system but emphasised a commitment to providing necessary resources at the border.

The current funds allocated in the supplemental related to the border aim to increase the number of border agents, immigration judges and asylum officers. The ongoing deadlock raises questions about the path forward and the potential impact on crucial international aid and border security measures.