US Senate passes aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan with big bipartisan vote

24 April 2024, 03:14

Congress Ukraine
Congress Ukraine. Picture: PA

The bill passed the Senate on an overwhelming 79-18 vote late on Tuesday.

The Senate has passed 95 billion dollars (£76.2 billion) in war aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, sending the legislation to President Joe Biden after months of delays and contentious debate over how involved the United States should be in foreign wars.

The bill passed the Senate on an overwhelming 79-18 vote late on Tuesday after the House had approved the package on Saturday.

Mr Biden, who worked with congressional leaders to win support, is expected to quickly sign the legislation and start the process of sending weapons to Ukraine, which has been struggling to hold its front lines against Russia.

The legislation would also send 26 billion dollars (£20 billion) in wartime assistance to Israel and humanitarian relief to citizens of Gaza, and 8 billion dollars (£6.4 billion) to counter Chinese threats in Taiwan and the Indo-Pacific.

Congress Ukraine
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (J Scott Applewhite/AP)

US officials said about 1 billion dollars (£802,000) worth of the aid could be on its way shortly, with the bulk following in coming weeks.

In an interview with The Associated Press shortly before the vote, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer said that if Congress had not passed the aid, “America would have paid a price economically, politically, militarily”.

“Very few things we have done have risen to this level of historic importance,” he said,” he said.

On the Senate floor, Mr Schumer said the Senate was sending a message to US allies: “We will stand with you.”

Mr Schumer and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made passage of the legislation a top priority, agreeing to tie the Ukraine and Israel aid to help ensure passage and arguing there could be dire consequences for the United States and many of its global allies if Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression is left unchecked.

Congress Ukraine
Activists supporting Ukraine, demonstrate outside the Capitol in Washington (J Scott Applewhite/AP)

They worked with House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Republican, to overcome seemingly intractable Republican opposition to the Ukraine aid, in particular — eventually winning large majorities in both chambers.

Mr McConnell said in a separate interview before the vote that it “is one of the biggest days in the time that I’ve been here”.

“At least on this episode, I think we turned the tables on the isolationists,” Mr McConnell said.

The House approved the package in a series of four votes on Saturday, with the Ukraine portion passing 311-112.

The 61 billion dollar (£48.1 billion) for Ukraine comes as the war-torn country desperately needs new firepower and as Mr Putin has stepped up his attacks.

Ukrainian soldiers have struggled as Russia has seized the momentum on the battlefield and gained significant territory.

Mr Biden told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday the US will send badly needed air defence weaponry as soon as the legislation is passed.

“The President has assured me that the package will be approved quickly and that it will be powerful, strengthening our air defense as well as long-range and artillery capabilities,” Mr Zelensky said in a post on X on Monday.

In an effort to gain more votes, Republicans in the House majority also added a bill to the foreign aid package that could ban the social media app TikTok in the US if its Chinese owners do not sell their stake within a year.

That legislation had wide bipartisan support in both chambers.

The TikTok bill was one of several tweaks Mr Johnson added to the package the Senate passed in February as he tried to move the bill through the House despite significant opposition within his conference.

Other additions include a stipulation that 9 billion dollars (£7.2 billion) of the economic assistance to Ukraine is in the form of “forgivable loans”; provisions that allow the US to seize frozen Russian central bank assets to rebuild Ukraine; and bills to impose sanctions on Iran, Russia, China and criminal organisations that traffic fentanyl.

By Press Association

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