“This sends the worst possible message to Ukraine as Putin’s forces stand at its doorstep,” Senator Jim Risch of Idaho, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, said of the decision to pull the language from the bill. “So much for Congress reasserting its role in foreign policy.”
In a separate vote on Tuesday, the Senate shot down a bipartisan attempt by Senators Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, and Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, to block a $650 million arms sale to Saudi Arabia. The three lawmakers argued that sending the tranche — including 280 air-to-air missiles and nearly 600 missile launchers — would reward the Saudi government for continuing to wage war in Yemen.
The Biden administration lobbied against the blockade, arguing that the tranche was composed of only defensive weapons. Ultimately only 30 senators, including Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, voted in favor of the legislation.
In September, the House Armed Services Committee approved its version of the legislation, after over a dozen moderate Democrats on the panel joined Republicans in approving a larger Pentagon budget. That move infuriated progressive Democrats, who linked arms on Tuesday to oppose the bill.
“I support having by far the strongest military in the world and the good-paying defense jobs in my district that protect our troops,” said Representative Andy Levin, Democrat of Michigan. “But I cannot support ever-increasing military spending in the face of so much human need across our country.”
The bill still includes several provisions requiring that the administration provide more reports to Congress on Afghanistan, including one requesting regular briefings that assess the surveillance and reconnaissance capacity of the United States to conduct counterterrorism operations there.
In addition to authorizing the creation of a commission to scrutinize the war in Afghanistan, the measure would bar defense contractors and former cabinet secretaries from serving on it.