The bill would have required 60 votes: All 48 Democrats, the three independents, plus nine Republicans, but the vote came down 51-49.
In October, President Joe Biden had pitched a large aid package for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan which would come to a total value of $111 billion with $61 billion allocated for Ukraine.
Senate Republicans have argued that any assistance for Ukraine can only be brought to a vote once concessions are made by Democrats on reforming immigration and the asylum process in the United States. Polling conducted across various Republican congressional districts, seen by Kyiv Post, indicated that 58 percent of Republicans view immigration as their primary or secondary political concern – the top issue for Republicans. Only 1 percent of interviewed Republicans stated that Ukraine was their primary or secondary concern.
The White House has been raising its tone as to how quickly funds designated for Ukraine were expiring. On Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken referred to a $175 million package as being “one of the last” that could be offered to Ukraine with the money that has already been approved by Congress.
President Biden, seeking to cajole Republican leaders to vote in favor of Ukraine on Wednesday, said: “Who is prepared to walk away from holding Putin accountable for this behavior? Who among us is really prepared to do that?” The President continued that, “Who in the United States are prepared to walk away from that? I tell you, I’m not prepared to walk away, and I don’t think the American people are either.”
The Wednesday remarks marked a shift in tone for the President, who referred to his Russian counterpart 11 times by name and referenced the possibility that Ukraine could fall to Russia, saying, “If Putin takes Ukraine, he won’t stop there.”
Senate Democrats had arranged for a closed-door videocall with President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday which was canceled at the last minute due to disputes with Republicans who argued that it was out of place given that no deal had yet been reached on immigration reform.
According to the government’s calendar, the House and Senate are only scheduled to both meet four more times this year, before adjourning, the House on Dec. 14 and the Senate a day later, for the Christmas vacation. The Senate is due to reconvene on Jan. 8 and the House on Jan. 9. However, the leaders of the House and Senate have the prerogative to keep their body in session if there is a need.
Historically, legislative leaders have used the end-of-the-year vacation as leverage. Unless hard legislation is voted on, the leader does not allow the elected officials to leave Washington for their home states, with the hope that most legislators will just give up and vote “yes” on legislation. Though it is possible that America’s legislative leaders could pursue this route, most believe that the vote on Ukraine will not appear before January.
Speaking to Kyiv Post, a congressional observer estimated that aid for Ukraine may be punted to around Jan. 19, the deadline by which the US’ 2024 budget must be approved to prevent a shutdown. Some hope that at that point, Republicans and Democrats will be more open to cutting deals. However, though the proposed 2024 House version of the budget bill included authorization for a renewal of Ukraine’s Lend Lease, the Senate version does not.
Another factor in Congressional Republicans’ calculus are the impending presidential primaries. The first four primaries (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina), which typically act as bellwethers, begin on Jan. 15, and continue through Feb. 24. Republicans would most likely wish to wrap up Ukraine-related matters before primaries are in full swing.
Some of Ukraine’s most senior leaders are currently in Washington, lobbying for more aid. Though what successes they have had – or have not had, is not public, they would undoubtedly agree with Biden’s assertion that “We can’t let Putin win. I’ll say it again: We can’t let Putin win… Any disruption in our ability to supply Ukraine clearly strengthens Putin’s position.”
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