Senate Set for Wednesday Test Vote on Biden’s $106B Foreign Aid Plan

Senate Set for Wednesday Test Vote on Biden’s $106B Foreign Aid Plan – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer aims to steer the Senate toward an unsuccessful vote this week on President Biden’s $106 billion proposal for Ukraine, Israel, and border funding, with the intention of prompting both sides to engage earnestly in negotiations.

Schumer has taken steps to schedule a Wednesday vote, highly likely to face failure, owing to the stalled border security negotiations. With bipartisan negotiators grappling with persistent challenges in crafting a viable border deal, some senators believe that a looming deadline may aid in sharpening their focus. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), one of the negotiators, said that the failed vote could be “a necessary next step.” 

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Tillis argued that if senators can’t get a border deal “that’s going to reduce future flows [of migration] , then take the vote. It will fail, and then we’ll go from there.” A Democratic senator, speaking on condition of anonymity, agreed that Schumer’s move might help: “That’s going to create a lot of smelling salts to wake people up to the crisis and the urgency,” the Democrat said. 

Adding that “it creates even more urgency, deadlines and emergencies and last minute snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory seems to be par for the course” for these types of negotiations. The significance of this week’s vote surpasses typical filibusters by the Senate minority party. Despite being a foreseeable and easily anticipated vote, it diverges from the usual partisan messaging bills. Instead, it represents a substantial aid package for some of the nation’s key allies. 

The stakes are heightened as Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is set to address senators in a closed briefing on Tuesday, intensifying the situation. Individuals from both political parties contend that, despite appearances, the Senate ultimately cannot afford to falter, even though the defeat of the bill on the Senate floor will undeniably be perceived as a failure.

As Schumer put it, “if Ukraine falls, Putin will keep on going.” Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), whose gloomy outlook on Monday dominated a day of bleak predictions regarding the border negotiations, urged his Republican counterparts to support the advancement of the bill. Wednesday’s vote will essentially attempt to overcome a GOP filibuster hindering the commencement of bill deliberations. 

At times, the Senate progresses a bill that hasn’t fully materialized to provide additional time for crucial discussions. “We need to get on the bill, so if we do come to an agreement, that we can move quickly. The Senate moves really slowly,” Murphy said. “I hope we don’t lose the vote. I hope the Republicans understand that they can vote to get on the bill to try to get to a final conclusion.”

Republicans hold a different perspective. They’ve been cautioning for weeks that they would obstruct a vote to advance Biden’s aid request without a border deal, asserting the need to fulfill that commitment. Despite advancements in asylum reform negotiations, talks regarding parole and other stringent measures seem to be halted, possibly until after the anticipated failed vote. 

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According to Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), a key border negotiator, the current trajectory indicates certain failure. “I don’t want to have a failed vote on anything,” Lankford said. “I don’t think that proves anything other than everyone knows where we are on this, that we really want to be able to secure the border. And Democrats have been very outspoken that they want to do a little bit on the border, but leave it open.”

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In gauging the distance between the two sides, Murphy suggested that the parties are approximately a week or more from reaching an agreement. He expressed his reluctance to continue negotiations with Lankford until there is more movement towards the middle from his counterpart. Lankford, on the other hand, clarified that discussions between him and Murphy are ongoing, emphasizing that the negotiations have not come to a halt.

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