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Senate appears set to approve $95 billion in foreign aid

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

In Washington, the Senate appears to be on the precipice of approving roughly $95 billion in foreign aid for allies including Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan. Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer celebrated on the Senate floor today, saying the moment was six months in the making.

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CHUCK SCHUMER: Today the Senate sends a unified message to the entire world. America will always defend democracy in its hour of need.

SUMMERS: The Senate is expected to pass the aid in the coming hours, sending the legislation to President Biden for his signature. Joining us now is NPR congressional correspondent Claudia Grisales, who is on Capitol Hill. Hey there.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Hey, Juana.

SUMMERS: So, Claudia, let's just start with the package itself. Tell us what's in it.

GRISALES: It would direct roughly $60 billion in military aid to Ukraine, more than $25 billion to Israel and $8 billion for Taiwan. And there's also a series of other major provisions. For example, it would force TikTok's Chinese parent company to sell the popular video sharing app or be banned in the U.S. within a year. And Senate leaders are really seeing this moment as a victory for this bipartisan, unified push on this aid. The Senate was expected to be gone this week, but now they plan to stay in session until this gets done.

SUMMERS: Unified push is not a phrase we hear too often in Congress...

GRISALES: Right.

SUMMERS: ...These days. So tell us more about that. I understand that minority leader Mitch McConnell had some strong words for his fellow Republicans who opposed this effort.

GRISALES: Right - a reminder that the Senate passed a similar bipartisan foreign aid bill in February, so now they're finally able to make good on this. And McConnell did have extensive remarks today with reporters, and he did blame President Biden's administration for some foreign policy stumbles and other disagreements. But he also took aim at members of his own party, as you mentioned. He blamed former Fox News host Tucker Carlson for demonizing Ukraine. And he says that influenced many Republicans to drag their feet here. And he said that's why it took a while for some to come around to approve this aid. And he said his party has a tendency to be isolationist when there's a Democrat in the White House, referring to President Biden currently. But he said this is a new moment.

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MITCH MCCONNELL: So I think we've turned the corner on the isolationist movement. I've noticed how uncomfortable proponents of that are when you call them isolationist. So I think we've made some progress, and I think it's going to have to continue because we've got big problems.

GRISALES: And today we saw a vast majority of Republicans approve a procedural vote to bring this package to the Senate floor.

SUMMERS: And, Claudia, I mean, there were many moments that it did not appear that this aid would make it out of Capitol Hill. So tell us how we got here.

GRISALES: Right. There were so many moments it didn't seem that we would come to this to see the Senate take this up. The major holdup were hardline Republicans who were adamantly opposed to the aid for Ukraine. And for several months, we saw these Republicans in the House oppose Speaker Mike Johnson when he started to take steps to push this aid forward. He actually reversed his own position on it, and he was following their lead initially. Now these hardline Republicans are furious at him for relying on Democratic votes to help advance his plan that saw passage this past weekend. Some have even threatened his job for a reminder that the fallout for this could still be in the making when Congress returns later this month.

SUMMERS: NPR's Claudia Grisales. Thank you.

GRISALES: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Claudia Grisales is a congressional reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk.