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Senate GOP debates advancing foreign aid bill without border policies

With months of negotiations on the toxic border issue certain to end in failure Wednesday, Senate Republicans are indicating they’ll likely eventually greenlight a more straightforward aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

They might not be ready to do that yet, though.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is expected to force votes on a foreign assistance package with border security policies Wednesday afternoon, which Republicans say they will reject. Then Schumer will move to a package without the border component — which will also include the Fend Off Fentanyl Act.

“First Republicans said they would only do Ukraine and Israel and humanitarian aid with border, then they said they would not do it with border. Well we’re gonna give them both options,” Schumer told reporters on Wednesday morning.

Ahead of those votes, the GOP is meeting to debate the path forward. It’s not clear whether Republicans will be ready to advance the second package, according to several people familiar with party strategy. It will need 60 votes to get over the first filibuster, and then eventually 60 votes to end debate.

“We’re trying to determine whether or not Schumer will allow amendment votes. That will be pretty important. We have a number of our members who are for the other elements of the package if you strike the border piece. Process is going to matter,” Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) said in an interview.

Illustrating that point, Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) said he would vote to advance the border-free bill provided there was an agreement to vote on amendments. Schumer said he was committed to a “fair and open-ended process.”

A two-week recess is scheduled to start this weekend, and any one senator can drag out the foreign assistance package; several conservative senators are likely to do so over opposition to Ukraine funding. But there’s also a possibility Republicans are ready to move on after the disastrous border negotiations, a failed House vote on Israel aid and looming government funding deadlines.

“It’s a timing issue, I think. Eventually, this vote is going to happen. And the only reason it hasn’t is because of negotiations on border which got close, but not quite there. And so now I think it’s a question of, there’s a break coming up. And it’s really kind of his call. Does Schumer cancel the break?” Thune said. “The key, as always, is going to be making sure that we have some opportunities to amend it.”

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