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Ukraine aid in danger as Republicans struggle to chart course

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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will give Senate Republicans one more day to figure out whether they want to advance a massive foreign aid supplemental, punting a critical vote until Thursday.

Schumer vowed the Senate will vote Thursday regardless of where Republicans end up. He said that he’s willing to “give our Republican colleagues the night to figure themselves out.”

“We’re waiting for the Republicans to tell us what’s next,” said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

The Senate cleared an initial procedural hurdle on Wednesday, 58-41, but that vote revealed problems, because the next one needs 60 votes. Several Republicans who are inclined to support billions more in aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan ended up voting against that motion, signaling the challenge ahead. Flipping those votes is proving extremely challenging.

Democrats have not received an offer from Republicans that clears the path to 60 votes, according to a person familiar with the negotiations. And some Democrats privately are taking a more pessimistic view as to whether Ukraine funding can ever pass as a result of the stalled negotiations. Former President Donald Trump looms over much of it with his skepticism of Ukraine aid and attacks on an attempt to beef up border security, demonstrating more sway over the party than GOP leaders.

And just hours after rejecting Sen. James Lankford’s (R-Okla.) bipartisan border deal, Senate Republicans are pressing for votes on amendments, including a hardline border security bill passed by the House. They say that without such an agreement they will not move forward.

“Our side is not willing to give up the border fight,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). “The question is what other sort of amendments do people need to allow us to go to final passage. But I’m somewhat optimistic.”

Democrats sound open to giving them those votes, if befuddled about the party’s stance.

“Republicans are trying to figure out how to get out of the box they are in,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.). “They’ve gone from ‘must have border’ to ‘can’t have border’ to ‘must have border again.’”

Schumer has said he’s open to amendments, but he’s not publicly outlined his terms or timeline for how Republicans can proceed although senators said Schumer is inclined to give Republicans votes they need to move the bill forward. Votes on amendments could kick the Senate session into the weekend, delaying the start of a scheduled two-week recess.

What’s more, some senators are scheduled to go to the Munich Security Conference — and stumbling on Ukraine aid would be a major embarrassment for Senate Republicans.

“We’re hoping that Republicans are gonna get their act together,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.).

GOP amendments could also significantly change the underlying text of the bill and risk passage in the Senate — or further complicate prospects in the House. At the moment though, none of the amendments being weighed by Republicans are expected to get 60 votes. Democrats could also propose amendments as well, adding to the heaps of possible change in the bill.

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