As Republican opposition grows to Ukraine aid, Senate leaders say the world is watching

WASHINGTON — While a growing number of Republicans oppose U.S. aid to Ukraine, Senate leaders argue in strong terms that the money is crucial to pushing back Russian President Vladimir Putin and preserving America’s global position.

In a rare weekend session at the Capitol, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DY, and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky issued stark warnings about the consequences of abandoning longtime U.S. allies in Europe.

“Today it is no exaggeration to say that the eyes of the world are on the United States Senate,” McConnell said. “Our allies and partners hope that the indispensable nation, the leader of the free world, has the resolve to move forward.”

A test vote Sunday on the $95.3 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel and other countries comes as former President Donald Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, is trying to end aid and has escalated his attacks on the NATO military alliance . .

Trump said Saturday at a campaign rally in South Carolina that Russia should be able to “do whatever they want” to NATO members that don’t meet their defense spending targets. He told a story he had told before about an unknown NATO member who confronted him about his threat not to help them.

While McConnell has made Ukraine a top issue, a growing number of members of his Republican conference have followed Trump’s lead and opposed the aid, which Senate leaders have been trying to pass for months.

Without mentioning Trump by name, McConnell said in his opening statement Sunday that “American leadership matters, and it is up for debate.”

Schumer said that if America does not help Ukraine, “Putin will likely succeed.”

“The only appropriate response to this threat is for the Senate to face it head on by passing this bill as quickly as possible,” Schumer said before the vote.

The Senate is pushing through several procedural votes on the pared-down package after an attempt to combine it with legislation to curb migration at the U.S. border failed. Objections from Republicans staunchly opposed to the aid delayed quick action, forcing a vote over the weekend as negotiations continued over possible changes to the legislation.

Schumer has said he is open to amendments — most of which are likely to fail — but he forced senators to remain in session through the weekend to try to speed up the process.

In a key vote last week, 17 Republican senators agreed to begin debate on the bill, and 31 voted against it, giving McConnell and other Republican relief supporters new hope that the bill would pass.

But even if the Senate passes the package, its future is highly uncertain in the House of Representatives, where a large majority of Republican lawmakers have close ties to Trump.

Amid battlefield shortages, the package would give Ukraine $60 billion, mainly to buy U.S.-made defense equipment, including ammunition and air defense systems that authorities say it desperately needs as Russia ravages the country. It includes $8 billion for the government in Kiev and other aid.

It would also provide $14 billion for Israel’s war with Hamas, $8 billion for Taiwan and partners in the Indo-Pacific to counter China, and $9.2 billion in humanitarian aid for Gaza.