Democrats eye linking Ukraine package to coronavirus aid
Senate Democrats are eyeing linking more assistance for Ukraine to a stalled coronavirus aid package after weeks of privately mulling the path forward.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat, said folding the two together came up during a closed-door lunch this week.
“I know Chuck wants to move a Ukraine package and put COVID in with it,” Durbin said, referring to Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).
Durbin cautioned that he wasn’t sure a final decision had been made to tie them together, but said, “We’re going to try. That’s the ambition. We want to get them both done.”
Schumer has repeatedly talked about the need to pass both Ukraine assistance and coronavirus aid, but has been cagey about whether he would link them.
Asked about putting them together in one package, Schumer only said on Thursday, “Stay tuned.”
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who said this week that he didn’t have a personal preference, said he wouldn’t be surprised if they get tied together.
“I’m not surprised. I think that is sort of plan A,” Kaine said.
Linking the two issues has support from top Democrats and the White House.
“I have been adamant that they need to go together. Both need to get done,” Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.), the No. 3 Senate Democrat, told Bloomberg this week.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the White House have also thrown their support behind tying them together.
“The president, of course, put them forward because — together. And that is his preference: for them to move together, because they are both essential. There’s urgency to moving them both forward,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters in April.
The administration recently requested more than $30 billion in additional Ukraine aid, which on its own is expected to get broad bipartisan support.
But Republicans are vowing to oppose it if Democrats attach $10 billion in coronavirus assistance, which has been stalled because of a fight over the border.
Schumer and a group of Republicans previously struck a deal on the aid. But Republicans then blocked the bill after Democrats refused to give them a vote on Title 42, a Trump-era pandemic public health policy that allows for the rapid expulsion of migrants at the border and blocks them from seeking asylum.
Republicans view the two as linked because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wants to rescind Title 42 while a separate broader public health emergency is still in place.
They have made clear that they will block Ukraine aid if coronavirus assistance is attached without a resolution on the border issue. The package would need 60 votes to advance, meaning the support of at least 10 GOP senators.
Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.), the No. 4 Senate Republican, said it would be a “big mistake” to tie them together.
“It would be a mistake,” Blunt said. “You take things that are really doable … and then you add something to them that makes them if not impossible much slower to achieve.”