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Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell

Inside the Senate’s big push on Israel and Ukraine

The Senate is kicking off what will be a frenetic few weeks of action on the wars in Israel and Ukraine, setting the stage for a high-stakes clash with the currently speaker-less House.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are united on the need to quickly approve new funding and authorities for Israel in the aftermath of Hamas’ terrorist attacks. But McConnell also revealed Tuesday that he backs the White House’s expected effort to couple Israel aid with a long-anticipated Ukraine funding package that will cover a full year.

This puts McConnell, once again, directly at odds with House Republicans over Ukraine.

The price tag of the White House supplemental request is expected to be in the $100 billion range, with the biggest portion of that for Ukraine. McConnell said he also expects the White House will ask for Taiwan aid and a border security plan as part of this package. More on that below.

We told you weeks ago that the White House could seek anywhere between $60 billion to $80 billion in new military and economic support for Kyiv — an eye-popping number that will only embolden Ukraine opponents within the GOP.

But McConnell told us Tuesday that it makes sense to pair the Israel and Ukraine funding requests. Both countries, he argued, are engaged in similar struggles that have significant ramifications for U.S. national security.

“The most recent attack in Israel is part of a broader concern developed during the Ukraine war — basically, the democracies of the world are all on the same side,” McConnell told us, noting that Russia, Iran and North Korea have all aligned on the opposing sides of these conflicts.

“This is all interconnected,” McConnell added.

And Schumer is making clear that the Senate will not wait for the House to overcome its dysfunction. This is an indication that senators could very well, with McConnell’s blessing, pass a package that House Republicans — even the eventual speaker — won’t like.

“The House is sort of a mess,” Schumer said. “Therefore we think the best thing to do is pass a strong, big supplemental with strong bipartisan support. And that may force the House to act.”

Potential roadblocks: The jam-the-House strategy could get tricky if the next speaker holds firm against Ukraine aid.

House Republicans are pretty evenly split on Ukraine, making it a difficult issue for the eventual speaker to address. Of course, he or she could simply move to strip it out of the package or scale it back. Conservatives see the Ukraine-Israel pairing as an intimidation tactic.

“Basically they’re trying to give political cover to support unpopular Ukraine aid,” Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) told us. “They’re different issues and frankly the political implications of all of them are different.”

Ukraine won’t be the only thorny aspect of the supplemental. McConnell said Republicans would push for the inclusion of a “serious” and “credible” plan to address the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border.

This will be extremely difficult. During government funding negotiations last month, GOP senators tried but ultimately failed to come up with a border-related amendment that could pass the Senate and satisfy House conservatives. None of the dynamics surrounding this issue have changed, so it won’t be any easier to find a compromise.

— Andrew Desiderio

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