The United States has now spent more money on military and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine than all of the other NATO members combined. But that’s not going to stop the Senate from plucking another $1.3 billion of magical cash from the money tree in the Rose Garden and sending it overseas. What might stop the bill, however, is a plan that Chuck Schumer has said he is considering. Schumer wants another $10 billion in domestic COVID relief and $5 billion to bolster vaccinations around the globe. That effort is currently stalled because the Senate GOP is willing to go along with it, but only if they get a vote on a measure to force the White House to leave Title 42 in place on the southern border. Schumer has refused to hold that vote so far and is now suggesting he might tie the COVID relief to the Ukraine aid bill. If he does, that effort could stall as well. (The Hill)
Senate Republicans are sending a warning shot over the Biden administration’s forthcoming request for additional Ukraine aid.
Despite bipartisan support for new assistance, Senate Republicans say they will block it if Democrats tie it to coronavirus relief that has been stalled over an entrenched fight over a Trump-era border pandemic policy.
Democrats haven’t said if they will link the Ukraine assistance to the coronavirus aid, but they are trying to figure out a path forward for the COVID-19 relief after Republicans blocked it.
Chuck Schumer may be playing with fire here. As far as Title 42 goes, there is growing public support for keeping it in place and sending illegal aliens back to wait in Mexico using the excuse of preventing COVID infections from streaming across the border. Democrats have noticed and a number of them have been abandoning ship on Biden’s decision to end it on May 23rd. But agreeing to keep it in place risks angering their base, most of whom support open borders.
If Schumer allows a vote on the GOP measure put forth by Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) that would force Biden to keep Title 42 in place, then all of his members would be forced to go on the record over it. Their opponents would then proceed to hammer them with that vote in the midterms, so Schumer would prefer to leave the matter in Biden’s hands so his party doesn’t have to take the fall for it.
But the COVID relief measures have enjoyed bipartisan support thus far. In fact, it’s some of the only legislation that they’ve managed to push through since retaking control of the entire federal government. And they’ve already got enough votes to pass this next round of relief, but only if the Title 42 vote happens first. Failing to pass the COVID relief money would be another black eye for the Senate Democrats.
The Ukraine aid is also very popular with the public and has enjoyed nearly unanimous support in the Senate and the next batch should sail through with no issues. But if Schumer decides to get cute with this and tries to tie the COVID bill to it, he could wind up sinking the Ukraine bill with it. This would only reinforce the public perception that congressional Democrats can’t seem to get anything done.
Schumer hasn’t said for sure that he will tie the two bills together, but he’s at least suggested he’s thinking about it. He’s gotten warnings this week from multiple Republicans ranging from John Thune to Roy Blunt not to try it if he wants the Ukraine relief to pass. Sometimes half a loaf really is better than none. Chuck Schumer may want to just chalk up a win on the Ukraine bill without any spurious attachments and call it a day.
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