When the U.S. Senate passed a $95.3 billion foreign aid bill to benefit Ukraine, Taiwan, Israel and Gaza early Tuesday morning, Wyoming’s senior senator voted against it.
The bill passed with 70 senators in favor and 29 against, but with bleak prospects in the U.S. House as Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson criticized it as another Senate failure to address the immigration influx at the Southern border.
Wyoming’s Republican senior Sen. John Barrasso agrees.
“For months, I have demanded we secure our southern border before helping other nations secure theirs,” wrote Barrasso in a Tuesday email to Cowboy State Daily explaining his no vote. “This bill does not include reforms that would force an end to Biden’s open border policies and protect the American people.”
Barrasso had also voted against an earlier version of the foreign-aid bill that included $20.2 billion in border security measures, along with other republicans who said the bill was full of “loopholes.”
Barrasso said he has “long supported” foreign U.S. allies against enemies that threaten world stability, especially Israel, but “my top priority remains the safety and security of the United States.”
Wyoming’s junior Republican Sen. Cynthia Lummis did not cast a vote on the bill, according to the Senate record.
Though she was not able to be present during the vote, Lummis also disavowed the bill, saying it shirks “the very serious problems our own country faces including at our Southern border.”
She said she remains concerned about situations in Israel and Ukraine, but could not “in good conscience support efforts to add $95 billion to our already staggering national debt – a debt the people of Wyoming will be forced to pay.”
The Money Would Go …
The bill proposes about $60 billion to go to supporting Ukraine’s weapons purchases, government and military operations, and private sector.
It would give another $14.1 billion to Israel and U.S. military operations in the region, and another $9.2 billion in humanitarian aid for civilians in Gaza, the West Bank, Ukraine and other conflict zones.
The bill says U.S. watchdogs should let Congress know if Hamas, the terrorist group that runs Gaza and that started a war with Israel with an Oct. 7, 2023, attack, gets hold of the foreign aid money.
The Republican Fracture
The vote tally emphasizes disagreements in the Republican party.
Senate Democrats voted nearly in lockstep, with only one Democrat nay coming from Vermont’s Sen. Peter Welch.
But Republicans were split.
Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney voted in favor, saying the bill posed “the most important vote we’ll ever take as U.S. senators” and comprised a bulwark against authoritarian world forces like China and Russia, which he said seek to dismantle the United States as the leader of the free world.
Helping Ukraine is about dissuading China, Romney said.
“If we fail to help Ukraine, China will eventually absorb Taiwan. If we fail to help Ukraine, we’ll abandon our word and our commitment, providing to our friends a view that America cannot be trusted,” he said.
Romney pointed to European allies’ commitments, including the European Union’s recent pledge of $54 billion over the next four years. He also pointed to America’s pricey defense budget of $850 billion as proof that the U.S. could afford the aid.
If America doesn’t bolster Ukraine, Russia will invade another NATO state and American civilians could be called into action, Romney said.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, railed against the bill for about an hour on the Senate Floor, saying it furthers an elitist war game and puts working-class Americans last.
He said 61% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, possibly quoting economic reports that emerged late last year. If these families have one setback or interruption, they won’t be able to pay their bills.
Part of the foreign aid will fund 57,000 first responders in other countries.
“What about the first responders in our country?” asked Paul. “What about the people who get in an ambulance and have a $33,000 bill in our country?”
Paul cast the bill as a money-making machine to siphon more money for defense contractors, with little compassion for lives lost in a brutal conflict that, he said, will likely end in compromise with Russia anyway.
“According to the Ukraine-first party, which includes elites of both parties, war is good. War is useful. War profits make us stronger,” he said. “Sounds a bit Orwellian.”
Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.