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Chuck Schumer

Schumer’s Plan B: Clean Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan bill

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is planning to bring the negotiated foreign aid package up for a vote today, immediately after Republicans block the broader bipartisan border security supplemental.

The foreign aid package includes tens of billions of dollars for Ukraine, Israel and the Indo-Pacific, as well as the FEND Off Fentanyl Act. It doesn’t include any provisions or money related to border-security funding.

According to a Senate Democratic aide, Schumer is able to do this because he filed cloture Monday on the underlying legislative vehicle, instead of bringing up the motion to reconsider the supplemental vote from December that Senate Republicans blocked.

Schumer informed Democrats and the White House last week that this was his backup plan if Republicans killed the border security compromise. The GOP is expected to block the border bill when the Senate holds a key procedural vote at 1 p.m.

This would appear to satisfy Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s call for a Senate vote on the foreign aid portion of President Joe Biden’s supplemental funding request even if the border bill goes down.

“We still, in my view, ought to tackle the rest of it because it’s important — not that the border isn’t important, but we can’t get an outcome,” McConnell told reporters Tuesday.

The outlook: If Republicans don’t block Schumer’s maneuver, it’s expected that the Senate would remain in session until final passage. The Senate was scheduled to leave Thursday afternoon for a two-week recess. Moving the measure through the chamber would require several days unless the two sides work out a time agreement.

Based on our conversations with GOP senators, it seems likely that the Ukraine-Israel-Taiwan package could win the requisite 60 votes. But hardline conservatives who helped tank the border deal were already objecting to this plan when asked about it on Tuesday.

“Groundhog Day was last week, but in some ways, we could be back reliving the Bill Murray classic,” Sen. Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.) said. “Because you’re still going to have the same dynamic, our conference is pretty split on Ukraine funding.”

House dynamics: Speaker Mike Johnson has said repeatedly that Congress shouldn’t address foreign entanglements without fixing the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border. Some Senate Republicans are more optimistic than others.

“[Johnson] has acknowledged the importance of funding Ukraine, but I know he’s got management issues and he’s trying to figure that out,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said. “I’m willing to give him all the latitude he needs to get it across the finish line.”

We can also report that there have been private discussions about a House discharge petition built around a Ukraine-Israel aid package. This would require 218 signatures. There are clearly enough GOP and Democratic supporters on Ukraine, although conservative Republicans will strongly oppose this. On Israel, there’s also broad support, despite opposition from progressive Democrats.

So there’s a potential House path forward for this legislation, provided the Senate passes it first.

— Andrew Desiderio and John Bresnahan

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