Magnolia Tribune

Wicker, Hyde-Smith split on procedural vote to allow debate on foreign aid

With Thursday’s vote, the U.S. Senate will now enter debate and consider amendments on a foreign aid spending package that would provide billions in support of Ukraine, Israel and more.

By: Frank Corder

The U.S. Senate has voted to move forward with debate on a foreign aid package that, if approved by both chambers and signed by President Joe Biden, could send $60 billion to Ukraine, $14 billion to Israel, $9 billion in humanitarian assistance to Gaza, and nearly $5 billion to the Indo-Pacific region.

Provisions to address the immigration system and fund increased U.S. border security were not included in the spending package. Negotiations on that legislation stalled earlier this week as Republicans in both chambers raised concerns with the bill not doing enough to address the inflow of illegal migrants across the southern border.

READ MORE: Border, Foreign Aid Package Meets Demise in U.S. Senate

Mississippi’s two U.S. Senators, Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith, both Republicans, were among the group of Senators who opposed the border and foreign aid package earlier in the week. Each noted they had little confidence in the Biden Administration enforcing the provisions of the proposed legislation.

Yet, Wicker and Hyde-Smith split on Thursday’s cloture vote, with Wicker voting with the 67 members to advance the bill and Hyde-Smith among the 32 in opposition. In total, 17 Republicans agreed to cloture while one member in the Democratic caucus – Senator Bernie Sanders (I) of Vermont – voting in opposition.

The procedural vote means the legislation can now be debated on the Senate floor as amendments from Senators are considered ahead of a vote for final passage, which could come next week. Amendments that include measures to fund border security or reform the immigration system are expected to be among those offered from Republican Senators.

Senator Wicker told Magnolia Tribune on Friday that it is incorrect to describe the legislation now before the chamber as foreign aid. Instead, he said the funding is for military assistance.

“I voted in favor of the defense supplemental because, as the ranking member of Armed Services, my priority is national security,” Wicker said. “It is incorrect to describe this legislation as foreign aid, which would be assistance for health and economic development programs. This bill involves military assistance recommended by the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.” 

Senator Wicker went on to says that 75 percent of the bill’s funding will support domestic manufacturing jobs, including $59 billion for weapons production. 

“This money will be spent inside the United States to hire Americans who will rebuild and bolster our military might and deterrence against Iran, China, North Korea, and Russia,” Wicker said, adding that the “inadequate border provisions” are not part of the bill that was advanced.

“We will now have a chance to offer stronger provisions authored by Senator Lindsey Graham,” Wicker noted.

For her part, Senator Hyde-Smith expressed the desire to see funding first be considered for border security in the U.S. instead of providing for more aid elsewhere.

“While we need to support Israel in its fight against terrorism, Americans deserve to know their own safety is valued and prioritized before we send billions more of taxpayer dollars to Ukraine,” Senator Hyde-Smith told Magnolia Tribune. “If the Biden administration was half as concerned about protecting our own borders as it seems to be with guarding Ukraine’s border, we would be much better off as a nation.”

Based on reactions to the forthcoming debate on the bill, Senators are in for long days ahead. Senator Rand Paul (R) from Kentucky said he would oppose any attempt at speeding up the process, potentially making the coming days quite laborious for his colleagues.

“I’ll object to anything speeding up this rotten foreign spending bill’s passage,” said Sen. Paul on X (formerly Twitter).

Paul has been an outspoken critic of send more foreign aid to Ukraine and other areas around the world while the U.S. continues to struggle to close its own border.

On Tuesday, after the border bill negotiations fell apart and Speaker Mike Johnson declared it “dead on arrival” should it make it out of the Senate, House Republicans attempted to pass legislation that would have sent aid only to Israel. That legislation failed as 14 Republicans and 166 Democrats voted it down.

The prospects of any measure containing funding for Ukraine passing in the House appear dim as a growing number of Republicans are unconvinced of the need for continuing to send billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars to the war-torn country as America’s southern border remains unsecured. U.S. funding and weapons for Ukraine has already eclipsed $100 billion since the conflict began two years ago.