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Senate fails to advance Ukraine aid despite dire warnings from Biden

President Joe Biden urged Congress to pass funding for Ukraine in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Dec. 6, 2023.
Mandel Ngan
/
AFP via Getty Images
President Joe Biden urged Congress to pass funding for Ukraine in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Dec. 6, 2023.

Updated December 6, 2023 at 5:38 PM ET

Senate Republicans voted to prevent the Senate from starting debate on a $110 billion national security finding, including money for Ukraine and Israel, over demands that Democrats include immigration policy measures in the package.

Lawmakers have privately hoped that the public failure will help them reset the troubled negotiations on a broader security bill ahead of a planned break for Christmas and New Years. The White House stepped up warnings in recent days that a failure to pass the funding could have dire consequences for democracy across the globe.

President Biden said on Wednesday that Congress needed to approve funding for Ukraine before it leaves Washington for the holidays or it would strengthen the position of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"History's going to judge harshly those who turn their back on freedom's cause. We can't let Putin win," Biden said in remarks ahead of a procedural vote on the funding in the Senate on Wednesday.

The White House warned this week that it would run out of money for weapons and aid by the end of the month to support Ukraine's fight against Russia's invasion.

"This cannot wait," Biden said. "Frankly, I think it's stunning that we got to this point in the first place."

Biden asked Congress for close to $106 billion in October for Israel, Ukraine, countering China in the Indo-Pacific and bolstering operations on the southern U.S. border. But many House Republicans are leery of spending more money on Ukraine, and the proposal has floundered.

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Biden said Republicans were "playing chicken with our national security" and holding the measures hostage with political demands. He said he was willing to make "significant" compromises on border policy, and had made offers to Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., who had been leading talks.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., joined Republicans in voting against starting consideration of the bill.

"I felt good for a while," Biden said, describing Lankford as "a decent guy" but saying that ultimately Republicans "walked away" from the talks.

Biden held talks with G7 leaders and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday. He said failing to continue to back Ukraine would embolden Putin and risk broader attacks on NATO allies.

"We're the reason Putin has not totally overrun Ukraine," he said.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Lexie Schapitl is a production assistant with NPR's Washington Desk, where she produces radio pieces and digital content. She also reports from the field and assists with production of the NPR Politics Podcast.
Eric McDaniel edits the NPR Politics Podcast. He joined the program ahead of its 2019 relaunch as a daily podcast.

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