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Senate Republicans sink border bill ahead of separate Israel and Ukraine aid vote

WASHINGTON — The Senate voted 49-50 to shoot down a bipartisan border security and foreign aid bill after Republicans voted en masse to filibuster the agreement they had demanded, arguing that it didn’t do enough to crack down on an overwhelmed border.

The failed vote on the $118 billion package tees up an alternative plan laid out by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who plans to force a vote Wednesday on an Israel and Ukraine aid package stripped of border security provisions after Republicans blocked the larger bill, a Senate Democratic aide said.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., the lead Democratic negotiator, said he was aghast that Republicans sank the legislation their leadership had negotiated and signed off on just three days ago.

“This is the most outrageous thing that I have been a part of in my 16 years in Congress,” Murphy told NBC News moments after the vote. “Within a couple of hours are releasing available they all ran for the hills. … We’ve learned that Trump is fully and completely in charge of the party, and they are rudderless otherwise.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., discusses next steps for the foreign aid package for Ukraine and Israel at the Capitol on Wednesday.J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Five Democrats joined the bulk of Republicans in opposing the legislation, which failed to get the necessary 60 votes. Just four Republicans voted for it: Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and James Lankford of Oklahoma, the top Republican negotiator on the deal.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz., another leading negotiator of the border bill, blasted critics for seeking to prolong a broken system for political gain. “I have a very clear message for anyone using the southern border for staged political events: Don’t come to Arizona. Take your political theater to Texas,” she said. “Do not bring it to my state.”

The Senate will now turn to the pared-down foreign aid package, which includes assistance to the warring countries and Taiwan. This will still include provisions targeting fentanyl trafficking, the Democratic aide said. The bill will need at least 60 votes to proceed in a vote later Wednesday with a final vote in the coming days.

The White House is supportive of the plan. White House spokesman Andrew Bates said Wednesday that the foreign aid bill “would protect America’s national security interests by stopping Putin’s onslaught in Ukraine before he turns to other countries,” as well as help Israel defend itself and provide “humanitarian aid to innocent Palestinian civilians.”

But it’s unclear whether the bill will pass the Senate. A Senate Republican lunch turned heated Wednesday afternoon as they discussed whether to support the new foreign aid bill, three sources in the room told NBC News. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., the Republican whip told senators that the vote would happen at some point regardless, so “we need to stop being pussies and just vote,” two sources said.

If it does pass the Senate, Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., gave no indication Wednesday that he’d allow a vote in the House.

“We’ll see what the Senate does. We’re allowing the process to play out. And we’ll handle it as it’s sent over. I have made very clear that you have to address these issues on their own merits,” Johnson told reporters before the Senate voted.

According to two sources, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., met privately with Johnson on Wednesday morning; the speaker told McConnell that he could not deliver any assurances on the fate of the immigration-less foreign aid bill in the House.

Separately, Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., also met with Johnson.

“I’m not taking it up,” Scott said Johnson told him. “He said he needs to break it up into individual bills. … If that passes the Senate he is not going to bring it up over there.”

In response, an official in the speaker’s office said: “The Speaker’s messages to Senators McConnell and Scott were consistent: the House will review the Senate’s product. The Speaker believes the House should review each issue individually on its merits.”

McConnell, who supported the $118 billion border security bill that a group of Republican senators negotiated with Democrats, had acknowledged it didn’t have the votes and voted against it Wednesday. McConnell expressed support for a vote on the supplemental aid bill without the border provisions during a leadership news conference Tuesday.

“There are other parts of this supplemental they’re extremely important as well — Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan,” McConnell said. “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. So that’s where I think we ought to head.”

Less than 48 hours after text of the bipartisan border security bill was released Sunday, Republican senators made clear that the legislation had no viable pathway to passage.

Former President Donald Trump decried the bipartisan border security package as a “terrible bill.” Johnson also swiftly stated his opposition to the legislation, saying it would be “dead on arrival” if it reached the House.

The White House indicated it would still push for immigration reforms. “Even if some congressional Republicans’ commitment to border security hinges on politics, President Biden’s does not,” Bates said Wednesday. “We must still have reforms and more resources to secure the border. These priorities all have strong bipartisan support across the country.”

The House rejected a standalone bill to provide aid to Israel on Tuesday amid congressional infighting over the Senate border bill. The House vote, 250-180, fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass the Israel aid bill under an expedited process.

Johnson announced the vote on the separate Israel bill after the Senate reached its immigration deal. The House bill included $17.6 billion in military aid to Israel, “as well as important funding for U.S. Forces in the region,” Johnson’s office said. And it lacked spending offsets that Johnson said Democrats had objected to in previous legislation. But Democrats rejected it as a political ploy to capitalize on the GOP’s rejection of the Senate immigration deal.

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