Ukraine and Israel aid back on track as US House pushes towards weekend votes

19 April 2024, 16:24

Congress Ukraine Israel
Congress Ukraine Israel. Picture: PA

Final House approval could come this weekend, when the package would be sent to the Senate.

The US House of Representatives has pushed ahead on a foreign aid package of 95 billion dollars (£76 billion) for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and humanitarian support as a cross-party coalition of legislators helped it clear a procedural hurdle to reach final votes this weekend.

Friday’s vote produced a seldom-seen outcome in the typically hyper-partisan House, with Democrats helping Republican speaker Mike Johnson’s plan advance.

Final House approval could come this weekend when the package would be sent to the Senate.

It was a victory for the strategy Mr Johnson set in motion this week after he agonised for two months over the legislation.

He has had to spend the past 24 hours making the rounds on conservative media working to salvage support for the wartime funding, particularly for Ukraine as it faces a critical moment battling Russia, but also for his own job as the restless right flank threatens to oust him over the effort.

“There’s a lot of misinformation about what we’re doing here and why,” Mr Johnson told the conservative host of The Mark Levin Show.

“Ukrainians desperately need lethal aid right now. We cannot allow Vladimir Putin to roll through another country and take it. These are very serious matters with global implications.”

After months of delay, the House worked slowly but deliberately once Mr Johnson made up his mind this week to plough ahead.

President Joe Biden sent a swift endorsement of the speaker’s plan and, in a rare moment, Donald Trump, the Republican presumed presidential nominee who opposes most overseas aid for Ukraine, has not derailed the speaker’s work.

Joe Biden
Joe Biden (Gene J Puskar/AP)

“The world is watching what the Congress does,” the White House said in a statement. “Passing this legislation would send a powerful message about the strength of American leadership at a pivotal moment.”

In an extremely rare step, the members of the House Rules Committee joined forces late on Thursday in a near-midnight vote, the four Democrats giving their support on a procedural step, to push past the Republican majority’s three hardline holdouts to send the package to the House floor for debate.

Mr Johnson will need to rely on Democrats again on Friday to clear the next procedural vote and turn back amendments Republicans have offered that could kill the package. One from hardline representative Marjorie Taylor Greene would reduce spending for Ukraine to zero.

She has filed the “motion to vacate” the speaker from office, and has drawn at least one other Republican, Thomas Massie, as a co-sponsor.

It could launch a bid to evict Mr Johnson from the speaker’s office, should she call it up for a vote, much the way Republicans ousted Kevin McCarthy from the position last autumn.

By Press Association

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