Senate to vote on $40bn Ukraine aid bill initially blocked by Rand Paul – live

Biden’s Ukraine package edges closer to approval

Joe Biden might finally score a victory for his Ukraine aid package as early as Wednesday after the Senate made moves on Monday to overcome the resistance of Republican holdout Rand Paul and set up a final vote.

Minority leader Mitch McConnell downplayed Paul’s objections during his weekend visit to Kyiv with a group of fellow Republican senators, telling reporters that a bipartisan push involving an “overwhelming majority of Republicans in Congress” would nudge the $40bn package over the line.

Rand Paul.
Rand Paul. Photograph: Shawn Thew/AP

The Senate will move to invoke cloture, the ending of formal debate on a bill, later today, which would set up a floor vote probably on Wednesday.

McConnell, according to Punchbowl’s Daily Punch podcast, said Paul’s resistance, and his demand for an inspector general to assess the impact of the aid package, was actually part of a healthy process.

There’s always been isolationist voices in the Republican party. There were prior to world war two. That’s perfectly alright. This is a debate worth having, it’s an important subject. I think one of the lessons we learned in world war two was not standing up to aggression early is a huge mistake.

Biden originally asked for $33bn for his latest Ukraine package last month, with $20bn for military supplies, $8.5bn in economic aid and $3bn for humanitarian relief.

Lawmakers beefed up the amount for the military spending and humanitarian components by $3.4bn each, but despite initial optimism of speedy approval, the bill’s progress has crawled.

It received overwhelming bipartisan backing in a 368-57 vote in the House last week, after Biden backed down on his insistence that it be coupled to a Covid-19 relief package opposed by Republicans.

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Maryland’s Democratic senator Chris Van Hollen says he suffered a minor stroke and is being treated at George Washington university hospital, the Associated Press says.

Chris Van Hollen.
Chris Van Hollen. Photograph: Tom Williams/AP

In a statement Sunday night, Van Hollen, 63, said he has been advised by doctors to remain under observation at the hospital for a few days out of an abundance of caution. He said he had been told there are no long-term effects or damage.

“I look forward to returning to work in the Senate later this week and thank the medical team for their excellent care,” said Van Hollen, who has been a senator since 2016.

It follows weekend news that John Fetterman, lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania and frontrunner in the state’s Democratic US Senate primary, suffered a stroke Friday, and is recovering.

The conservative-majority supreme court handed Texas Republican senator Ted Cruz a victory on Monday in his challenge to a federal restriction on repayments of large campaign loans, the Associated Press reports.

The justices, in a 6-3 decision on ideological lines, agreed that the somewhat obscure section of the law violates the constitution.

Cruz deliberately loaned his campaign $260,000 during his successful 2018 Senate race to be able to test the $250,000 cap on repayments.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority that the provision “burdens core political speech without proper justification”.

The case could be important for some candidates for federal office who want to make large loans to their campaigns ahead of November’s midterm elections, the AP said.

Biden’s Ukraine package edges closer to approval

Joe Biden might finally score a victory for his Ukraine aid package as early as Wednesday after the Senate made moves on Monday to overcome the resistance of Republican holdout Rand Paul and set up a final vote.

Minority leader Mitch McConnell downplayed Paul’s objections during his weekend visit to Kyiv with a group of fellow Republican senators, telling reporters that a bipartisan push involving an “overwhelming majority of Republicans in Congress” would nudge the $40bn package over the line.

Rand Paul.
Rand Paul. Photograph: Shawn Thew/AP

The Senate will move to invoke cloture, the ending of formal debate on a bill, later today, which would set up a floor vote probably on Wednesday.

McConnell, according to Punchbowl’s Daily Punch podcast, said Paul’s resistance, and his demand for an inspector general to assess the impact of the aid package, was actually part of a healthy process.

There’s always been isolationist voices in the Republican party. There were prior to world war two. That’s perfectly alright. This is a debate worth having, it’s an important subject. I think one of the lessons we learned in world war two was not standing up to aggression early is a huge mistake.

Biden originally asked for $33bn for his latest Ukraine package last month, with $20bn for military supplies, $8.5bn in economic aid and $3bn for humanitarian relief.

Lawmakers beefed up the amount for the military spending and humanitarian components by $3.4bn each, but despite initial optimism of speedy approval, the bill’s progress has crawled.

It received overwhelming bipartisan backing in a 368-57 vote in the House last week, after Biden backed down on his insistence that it be coupled to a Covid-19 relief package opposed by Republicans.

Read more:

Cheney: Republican leadership ‘enables white supremacy’

Liz Cheney has accused Republican leadership of enabling “white nationalism, white supremacy, and anti-Semitism”, in a scathing message following the racially motivated massacre at a grocery store in Buffalo.

The Wyoming congresswoman, who was removed from her position as the No 3 House Republican last year after she joined the panel investigating the 6 January Capitol attack, urged party leaders in a tweet to “renounce and reject these views and those who hold them”.

The House GOP leadership has enabled white nationalism, white supremacy, and anti-semitism. History has taught us that what begins with words ends in far worse. @GOP leaders must renounce and reject these views and those who hold them.

— Liz Cheney (@Liz_Cheney) May 16, 2022

It comes amid increasing scrutiny of Republican figures who have embraced the racist “great replacement theory” the Buffalo killer is said to have cited in a manifesto he used to justify the murders.

The far-right ideology expounds the view that immigration will ultimately destroy white values and western civilization.

Liz Cheney.
Liz Cheney. Photograph: J Scott Applewhite/AP

Although a growing number of Republican lawmakers and hopefuls have promoted the discredited conspiracy theory, including JD Vance, the Donald Trump-endorsed candidate who won last week’s Republican Senate primary in Ohio, Cheney’s message will be mostly seen to be directed at one person: Republican House conference chair Elise Stefanik.

The New York congresswoman, who was swiftly installed to replace Cheney when House minority leader and Trump loyalist Kevin McCarthy orchestrated Cheney’s ouster last year, has utilized the great replacement theory to make false accusations that Democrats were plotting a “permanent election insurrection” by replacing white voters with immigrants.

The Illinois congressman Adam Kinzinger, who sits alongside Cheney as the only Republicans on the House panel investigating Trump’s insurrection efforts, posted his own tweet slamming as “despicable” Stefanik’s promotion of the theory.

On Sunday he added another post, demanding that Stefanik, McCarthy, and extremist Republican congressmembers Marjorie Taylor Greene and Madison Cawthorn be “replaced”.

McCarthy is one of five Republicans who received subpoenas from the House panel last week as it seeks more information about Trump’s actions to overturn his election defeat by Joe Biden, including the deadly 6 January riots.

Stefanik, meanwhile, has been furiously tweeting this morning, doubling down on her claims that Democrats are purposely manipulating immigration policy “specifically for political and electoral purposes”.

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Victoria Bekiempis

Victoria Bekiempis

John Fetterman, the lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania and frontrunner in the state’s Democratic US Senate primary, suffered a stroke Friday, and is recovering, he said in a statement.

“On Friday, I wasn’t feeling well, so I went to the hospital to get checked out. I didn’t want to go – I didn’t think I had to – but Gisele insisted, and as usual, she was right,” Fetterman said in a statement posted to Twitter, referring to his wife. “I hadn’t been feeling well, but was so focused on the campaign that I ignored the signs and just kept going.”

“On Friday it finally caught up with me. I had a stroke that was caused by a clot from my heart being in an A-fib rhythm for too long,” the statement continued.

On Friday, I wasn’t feeling well, so I went to the hospital to get checked out.

I didn’t want to go – I didn’t think I had to – but @giselefetterman insisted, and as usual, she was right.

The good news is I’m feeling much better + I’m well on my way to a full recovery. pic.twitter.com/WQ5X6QgQen

— John Fetterman (@JohnFetterman) May 15, 2022

“The good news is I’m feeling much better, and the doctors tell me I didn’t suffer any cognitive damage. I’m well on my way to a full recovery,” Fetterman said.

Doctors are keeping Fetterman in hospital for observation, he said in the statement, but “I should be out of here sometime soon.”

Good morning, and happy Monday! It’s a fresh new week in US politics, but it probably feels depressingly familiar to Joe Biden, who’s under pressure on multiple fronts, including a nationwide baby formula shortage, soaring gas prices and inflation, and relief bills for Ukraine and Covid-19 held up by political wrangling in Congress.

The president will see most hope for progress Monday on the $40bn package of military, humanitarian and economic aid for Ukraine as it continues to battle the Russian invasion.

Stalled in the Senate last week by a lone Republican holdout, the Kentucky senator Rand Paul, the bill is set for a cloture vote to end debate later today, setting up a final vote on Wednesday.

You can follow developments in the Ukraine conflict on our live blog here.

Here’s what else we’re watching today:

  • Congress will begin discussions on two bills intended to ease the baby formula crisis, one loosening benefits restrictions for families, and another funding emergency imports of formula from south America and Europe.
  • Joe Biden has two events on his calendar, presenting medals of valor to public safety officials this morning, and a bilateral meeting and reception later for Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
  • Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon visits House speaker Nancy Pelosi and Congress members this afternoon.
  • Vice-president Kamala Harris is traveling to the United Arab Emirates for Tuesday’s funeral of President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
  • The new White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre is scheduled to give her first briefing at 2.30pm.

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Erica Wang