Determined to project strong bipartisan support for Kyiv, Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader, worked for days leading up to the vote to tamp down on the anti-interventionist strain in his party, arguing both privately and publicly to his colleagues that the United States needed to aid a young democracy standing between Russian aggression and the Western world.
The pinnacle of that effort came over the weekend, when Mr. McConnell traveled to Kyiv, Ukraine, Stockholm and Helsinki, Finland, in what he said was partly a bid to push back on former President Donald J. Trump’s hostility toward NATO and the aid legislation itself. When Mr. Trump announced his opposition to the $40 billion package, Mr. McConnell said, he worried that he “could lose a lot more than 11” Republican votes.
The trip was designed “to convey to the Europeans that skepticism about NATO itself, expressed by the previous president, was not the view of Republicans in the Senate,” Mr. McConnell said in an interview. “And I also was trying to minimize the vote against the package in my own party.”
“We have a sort of an isolationist wing,” he continued. “And I think some of the Trump supporters have sort of linked up with the isolationists — a lot of talk out in the primaries about this sort of thing. I felt this would help diminish the number of votes against the package. I think that worked out well.”
Most of the Republicans regarded as presidential prospects in 2024 — Senators Ted Cruz of Texas, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Tim Scott of South Carolina, and Marco Rubio of Florida — backed the legislation even in the face of opposition from right-wing organizations.
In a 24-minute speech on the Senate floor, announcing his vote on Wednesday night, Mr. Cruz said he had carefully listened to a litany of arguments against the aid bill, including that it was too expensive and bloated with provisions unrelated to military aid, and that it was not in America’s security interest to counter Russia’s campaign when there were so many domestic problems at home.
But he had come to the conclusion, he said, that the assistance was worth supporting.
“There’s no doubt $40 billion is a large number, and although much of that spending is important — in fact, some of it is acutely needed in the military conflict — I would have preferred a significantly smaller and more focused bill,” Mr. Cruz said. “But our Ukrainian allies right now are winning significant victories with the weapons and training that we provided them already, and it is in our national interest for them to keep doing so.”