Schumer and Zelensky
Still from a video released by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer showing the Senator with Ukrainian President Zelensky

Leg­is­la­tion belat­ed­ly approved by the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives on Sat­ur­day that would pro­vide tens of bil­lions of dol­lars in secu­ri­ty assis­tance to Ukraine, Tai­wan, and Israel is on its way to Pres­i­dent Joe Biden’s desk this evening after a bipar­ti­san major­i­ty of the Sen­ate vot­ed for its pas­sage, hand­ing the Biden-Har­ris admin­is­tra­tion and U.S. allies on the oth­er sides of the Pacif­ic and Atlantic oceans a long-sought win.

The vote was 79–18.

“Tonight, a bipar­ti­san major­i­ty in the Sen­ate joined the House to answer history’s call at this crit­i­cal inflec­tion point,” said Pres­i­dent Biden in a state­ment released by the White House. “Con­gress has passed my leg­is­la­tion to strength­en our nation­al secu­ri­ty and send a mes­sage to the world about the pow­er of Amer­i­can lead­er­ship: we stand res­olute­ly for democ­ra­cy and free­dom, and against tyran­ny and oppression.”

“I will sign this bill into law and address the Amer­i­can peo­ple as soon as it reach­es my desk tomor­row so we can begin send­ing weapons and equip­ment to Ukraine this week. The need is urgent: for Ukraine, fac­ing unre­lent­ing bom­bard­ment from Rus­sia; for Israel, which just faced unprece­dent­ed attacks from Iran; for refugees and those impact­ed by con­flicts and nat­ur­al dis­as­ters around the world, includ­ing in Gaza, Sudan, and Haiti; and for our part­ners seek­ing secu­ri­ty and sta­bil­i­ty in the Indo-Pacific.”

“I want to thank Leader Schumer, Leader McConnell, and all of the bipar­ti­san law­mak­ers in the Sen­ate who vot­ed for this bill. This crit­i­cal leg­is­la­tion will make our nation and world more secure as we sup­port our friends who are defend­ing them­selves against ter­ror­ists like Hamas and tyrants like Putin.”

“This pack­age makes clear that Con­gress under­stands that the con­flict in Ukraine is not dis­joint­ed from future aggres­sion by the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Par­ty,” said Wash­ing­ton’s senior Unit­ed States Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Mur­ray in floor remarks. Mur­ray chairs the Sen­ate’s pow­er­ful Appro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee and also serves as Sen­ate Pres­i­dent Pro Tempore.

“From the begin­ning, I was clear — the chal­lenges we face around the world are inter­con­nect­ed, we have to deliv­er a com­pre­hen­sive pack­age — half steps won’t cut it. This pack­age ensures Amer­i­ca keeps it word to all its allies — and stands by all of its commitments.”

Human­i­tar­i­an aid was an essen­tial part of the pack­age, Mur­ray’s office emphasized. 

“And espe­cial­ly impor­tant to me: in pass­ing this pack­age, we do not lose sight of the human real­i­ty on the ground — the fact that in the mid­dle of every con­flict, are civilians—people dis­placed from their homes, peo­ple fac­ing obsta­cles get­ting basic med­ical ser­vices, and kids and fam­i­lies who des­per­ate­ly need food and water. I made cer­tain, at every step, that this bill deliv­ers bad­ly need­ed human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance — for Gaza, Sudan, Ukraine, and so many oth­er regions caught in con­flict,” Mur­ray added.

“This sup­ple­men­tal will sup­ply Ukraine with des­per­ate­ly need­ed equip­ment, and weapons, and train­ing, and logis­tics,” said Mur­ray’s seat­mate, Sen­a­tor Maria Cantwell. 

“For two years, the Ukrain­ian peo­ple have shown courage and resilience, enabling them to resist Russ­ian aggres­sion,” Cantwell declared. “It would be dis­as­trous for our nation­al secu­ri­ty — and for democ­ra­cy and human rights — if we had not sup­port­ed them.”

“The sup­ple­men­tal also includes sup­port for our Mid­dle East ally, Israel, includ­ing […] $9 bil­lion of human­i­tar­i­an aid for Gaza, and for peo­ple caught in con­flicts around the world. These con­flicts have tak­en an immea­sur­able toll on the Pales­tin­ian and Ukrain­ian peo­ple,” Sen­a­tor Cantwell con­tin­ued. “This pack­age also includes over $8 bil­lion to sup­port Tai­wan and oth­er Indo-Pacif­ic allies in a crit­i­cal part of the world where we stand shoul­der to shoul­der with these democracies.”

“It is shame­ful that House Repub­li­cans slow-walked vital aid to America’s allies and part­ners and human­i­tar­i­an relief for wors­en­ing con­flicts, but I’m glad it final­ly will be going to the president’s desk,” said Ore­gon’s senior Unit­ed States Sen­a­tor Ron Wyden. 

“This mea­sure shows Amer­i­ca is still a world leader, and I believe this aid will has­ten the end of the wars in Israel and Ukraine,” Wyden added. 

“I’m glad that this pack­age also includes the bipar­ti­san FEND OFF Fen­tanyl Act, which will help our coun­try fight the scourge of fen­tanyl by dis­rupt­ing illic­it opi­oid sup­ply chains and sanc­tion­ing transna­tion­al crim­i­nal orga­ni­za­tions. Ore­go­ni­ans know that the addic­tion cri­sis in our coun­try has reached unprece­dent­ed lev­els, and it’s high time that Con­gress crack down on illic­it traffickers.”

Wyden was crit­i­cal of the por­tion of the bill aimed at ByteDance-owned TikTok. 

“I have seri­ous con­cerns about any app that gives unfriend­ly for­eign gov­ern­ments access to Amer­i­cans’ pri­vate data, and I believe there is a legit­i­mate secu­ri­ty risk caused by TikTok’s rela­tion­ship to its Chi­na-based cor­po­rate par­ent,” Wyden said. 

“How­ev­er, I remain con­cerned that this bill could have neg­a­tive effects on free speech around the world, does too lit­tle to pro­tect Amer­i­cans’ pri­va­cy from being sold to Chi­na through third par­ties, and pro­vides broad author­i­ty that could be abused by a future admin­is­tra­tion to vio­late Amer­i­cans’ First Amend­ment rights. I plan to watch­dog how this leg­is­la­tion is imple­ment­ed, and will blow the whis­tle if the exec­u­tive branch over­steps beyond the pur­pose of the bill.”

Cantwell has also been very skep­ti­cal of the House­’s leg­is­la­tion tar­get­ing Tik­Tok, and has been pre­vent­ing the swift advance of a stand­alone bill on the same sub­ject through the U.S. Sen­ate. But now it will reach Biden’s desk — with Cantwell and Wyden’s yea votes — thanks to its inclu­sion in a must-pass secu­ri­ty assis­tance bill.

Wyden’s seat­mate Jeff Merkley said he could not vote for the bill due to the appro­pri­a­tions that crit­ics say will enable Ben­jamin Netanyahu’s gov­ern­ment to con­tin­ue oblit­er­at­ing Gaza and oppress­ing the Pales­tin­ian people. 

“This bill has mul­ti­ple impor­tant ele­ments I strong­ly sup­port, includ­ing pro­vid­ing crit­i­cal aid to Ukraine in the face of Vladimir Putin’s unpro­voked inva­sion,” said Merkley in a lengthy state­ment explain­ing his posi­tion and reasoning. 

“Ukraine is a demo­c­ra­t­ic repub­lic defend­ing itself against an invad­ing author­i­tar­i­an dic­ta­tor­ship. We must con­tin­ue to part­ner with Europe and oth­er allies to stand with the Ukrain­ian peo­ple and sus­tain the sup­ply of ammu­ni­tion and weapons Ukraine needs in defense of its democ­ra­cy. Had the Sen­ate had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to con­sid­er sup­port for Ukraine as a sep­a­rate bill, as the House did, I would have vot­ed in favor.” 

“I also sup­port oth­er ele­ments of the bill, includ­ing the FEND Off Fen­tanyl Act to help tack­le the flow of fen­tanyl into our com­mu­ni­ties, inter­na­tion­al human­i­tar­i­an aid, and assis­tance to strength­en secu­ri­ty in the Indo-Pacific.

“I sup­port­ed Israel going after Hamas fol­low­ing the hor­rif­ic attack on Octo­ber 7th and pas­sion­ate­ly sup­port every effort Amer­i­ca and oth­er nations are mak­ing to free all hostages. In addi­tion, I sup­port the aid to Israel for defen­sive weapons includ­ing Iron Dome, David’s Sling, and Iron Beam.” 

“The sec­tion of this bill I can­not sup­port, how­ev­er, is the fund­ing and deliv­ery of more offen­sive mil­i­tary weapon­ry to Israel at a time when Israel is using Amer­i­can weapons in what Pres­i­dent Biden has called an ‘indis­crim­i­nate’ cam­paign of bomb­ing. That cam­paign has killed more than 34,000 Pales­tini­ans, includ­ing more than 24,000 women and chil­dren. It has also pushed Gaza to the brink of famine with 1.1 mil­lion Pales­tini­ans fac­ing cat­a­stroph­ic lev­els of food inse­cu­ri­ty. Hamas is Israel’s ene­my. Pales­tin­ian civil­ians are not the enemy.” 

“Pres­i­dent Biden has repeat­ed­ly and urgent­ly called on Prime Min­is­ter Netanyahu to adopt a much more tar­get­ed cam­paign against Hamas and to dra­mat­i­cal­ly expand the sup­ply of food, water, med­i­cine, and shel­ter need­ed to address the cas­cad­ing human­i­tar­i­an dis­as­ter gen­er­at­ed by Israel’s cam­paign. Indeed, Amer­i­can law requires recip­i­ents of Amer­i­can assis­tance to facil­i­tate the deliv­ery of human­i­tar­i­an aid. Netanyahu, how­ev­er, has made only minor adjust­ments in response.” 

“In addi­tion, Pres­i­dent Biden has asked Israel not to unleash a ground inva­sion of the city of Rafah in south­ern Gaza, which has swollen from a pre-war pop­u­la­tion of 275,000 to more than one mil­lion peo­ple as it accom­mo­dates an enor­mous flow of refugees from areas bombed to the north. But the Israeli mil­i­tary con­tin­ues to con­duct airstrikes and raids on Rafah, and Netanyahu con­tin­ues to pub­licly insist that Israel will launch a mil­i­tary offen­sive on the city, which will mag­ni­fy civil­ian casu­al­ties among a pop­u­la­tion that has nowhere left to go.” 

“The cam­paign con­duct­ed by the Netanyahu gov­ern­ment is at odds with our Amer­i­can val­ues and Amer­i­can law. Thus, I will vote against the sup­ple­men­tal fund­ing bill.”

In so many ways, Sen­a­tor Merkley has proven him­self to the con­science of the Sen­ate, assum­ing a role that in the past belonged to greats like Paul Well­stone of Min­neso­ta. We appre­ci­ate that Sen­a­tor Merkley took the time to explain his think­ing and detail his prin­ci­pled stance. That’s what real lead­er­ship looks like. Merkley knew he could vote against the pack­age with­out derail­ing it, giv­en that it appeared to be on track to pass with a huge majority. 

The roll call from the Pacif­ic North­west was as follows:

Vot­ing Yea on the Motion to Con­cur in the House Amend­ment to the Sen­ate Amend­ment to H.R. 815: Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tors Pat­ty Mur­ray and Maria Cantwell (WA), Ron Wyden (OR), Jon Tester (MT), Repub­li­can Sen­a­tors Mike Crapo and Jim Risch (ID), Steve Daines (MT), Lisa Murkows­ki and Dan Sul­li­van (AK)

Vot­ing Nay on the Motion: Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tor Jeff Merkley (OR)

Merkley and Sen­a­tor Peter Welch of Ver­mont were the only Demo­c­ra­t­ic sen­a­tors to oppose the bill. Inde­pen­dent Sen­a­tor Bernie Sanders of Ver­mont joined them in opposition.

The fol­low­ing Repub­li­cans vot­ed nay as well, but for dif­fer­ent reasons:

  • John Bar­ras­so (R‑WY)
  • Mar­sha Black­burn (R‑TN)
  • Mike Braun (R‑IN)
  • Ted Budd (R‑NC)
  • Ted Cruz (R‑TX)
  • Bill Hager­ty (R‑TN)
  • Josh Haw­ley (R‑MO)
  • Ron John­son (R‑WI)
  • Mike Lee (R‑UT)
  • Cyn­thia Lum­mis (R‑WY)
  • Roger Mar­shall (R‑KS)
  • Mar­co Rubio (R‑FL)
  • Eric Schmitt (R‑MO)
  • Rick Scott (R‑FL)
  • J.D. Vance (R‑OH)

Repub­li­cans Rand Paul, Tom­my Tuberville, and Tim Scott missed the vote. 

Pres­i­dent Zelen­sky and Ukrain­ian lead­ers react­ed pos­i­tive­ly to the pas­sage of the package.

“I am grate­ful to the Unit­ed States Sen­ate for approv­ing vital aid to Ukraine today,” said Zelen­sky. “I thank Major­i­ty Leader Chuck Schumer and Repub­li­can Leader Mitch McConnell for their strong lead­er­ship in advanc­ing this bipar­ti­san leg­is­la­tion, as well as all US Sen­a­tors on both sides of the aisle who vot­ed in favor of it. This vote rein­forces America’s role as a bea­con of democ­ra­cy and the leader of the free world.” 

“I am also grate­ful to all Amer­i­cans who con­tin­ue to sup­port Ukraine and rec­og­nize that the his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance of this bill extends beyond pol­i­tics. I equal­ly appre­ci­ate Pres­i­dent Biden’s sup­port and look for­ward to the bill being signed soon and the next mil­i­tary aid pack­age match­ing the res­olute­ness that I always see in our nego­ti­a­tions. Ukraine’s long-range capa­bil­i­ties, artillery, and air defense are crit­i­cal tools for restor­ing just peace sooner.”

Pri­vate­ly, Zelen­sky and his com­man­ders have been con­cerned for some time that the aid won’t reach Ukraine in time to pre­vent Vladimir Putin’s regime from seri­ous­ly weak­en­ing their bat­tle­field posi­tion. The House spent months dither­ing before new Speak­er Mike John­son final­ly put Ukraine aid up for a vote. That was­n’t helpful. 

As Politi­co Europe’s opin­ion edi­tor Jamie Dettmer not­ed: “[T]he press­ing ques­tion is just how fast materiel, arms and ammu­ni­tion — espe­cial­ly artillery shells and air defense sys­tems — will actu­al­ly arrive. Will it all come in the nick of time, ahead of an expect­ed Russ­ian offen­sive this June or July, which Ukrain­ian com­man­ders fear could punch holes in Ukraine’s front lines? And if so, what hap­pens after?” 

“The truth is, it remains unclear whether it will take days, weeks or months for the kit to arrive at the front lines. And it all part­ly depends on how much has been pre-posi­tioned in Europe in antic­i­pa­tion of the U.S. Con­gress approv­ing the pack­age, as the Pen­ta­gon had been mak­ing reas­sur­ing nois­es that it was stock­pil­ing kit ahead of the vote.”

Ukraine did need Con­gress’ help soon­er, but it’ll take what it can get, con­sid­er­ing that the likes of Mar­jorie Tay­lor Greene are in the cau­cus that nar­row­ly con­trols the Unit­ed States House of Representatives. 

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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