Senate GOP prepares to get behind borderless foreign aid bill

Republican senators expect a supplemental bill that includes aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan aid will eventually pass, but they’re still stuck on how to address conservative demands on amendment votes — and senators’ urgent desire to go on recess.

Schumer opened the cloture vote around noon on Thursday, and it’s unclear how long it will go on. A vote Wednesday was open for hours amid Republican deliberations.

GOP senators met on Thursday morning to discuss whether they would filibuster or advance the foreign-aid only bill after blocking a separate version with a bipartisan border security proposal attached. Now they’re barreling toward a vote that could set up a rare weekend session even as some Republicans still question what amendments they might propose.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), in characteristic fashion, says he is planning to object to any limits on debate over the aid bill unless it addresses the southern border in a way he finds adequate.

“The [vote to advance] will probably be successful and then we’ll be on a timeline that could take us to next Tuesday unless there’s some time yielded back,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas).

“There seems to be a lot of willingness by the Democrats to give us amendments,” Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) said after the meeting. “It’s whether we can get everyone [in the GOP] around a strategy of supporting a certain menu of amendments. I think the answer there is going to be no.”

The Senate is slated to leave town this weekend for a two-week recess after five straight weeks in session. Multiple members have trips planned abroad or other weekend engagements they’re itching to get to. But there is a growing sense among senators that if they want to ever finish work on the aid bill, they could be subject to multiple rounds of amendment votes over the weekend absent an agreement among 100 senators.

Those votes would likely be subject to a 60-vote threshold, meaning they’d be difficult to pass. if they were adopted, they could change the underlying bill so much that final passage would become more uncertain.

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) said leaders should accommodate senators who want to improve the bill and potentially vote for it, rather than opponents who just want failed amendment votes — unless there’s an agreement to speed things up.

Despite almost universally rejecting a bipartisan deal on border policy changes, many GOP senators are still unwilling to advance Ukraine aid unless it’s in exchange for more conservative immigration changes that they would prefer. Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), who negotiated that previous bipartisan deal, said Thursday that he’s not yet sure whether he’d vote to advance the bill.

The other option is that the foreign assistance bill fails in the Senate — and the bipartisan priorities of Ukraine and Israel aid along with it. It’s not clear whether Senate leadership would then be willing to break the package up into standalone pieces, which is what House Republican leadership has pushed for some time.

Democratic leadership has stressed that it will keep senators in town until the supplemental is resolved.

“The plane hasn’t landed. We’re circling the airport. We’re not sure what airport we’re circling,” said Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.). “We’re still talking … the conference is split.”