May 20, 2024

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The Senate approves the aid bill for Ukraine and Israel and sends it to Biden

The Senate approves the aid bill for Ukraine and Israel and sends it to Biden

The Senate voted overwhelmingly Tuesday night to give final approval to a $95.3 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, sending it to President Biden and ending months of uncertainty over whether the United States will continue to support Kiev in its war against Russia. aggression.

The vote reflects resounding bipartisan support for the measure, which passed the House on Saturday by lopsided margins after an arduous journey on Capitol Hill, where it was nearly derailed by right-wing resistance. The Senate measure, by a vote of 79 to 18, represents a victory for the president, who urged lawmakers to move quickly so he can sign it into law.

This incident culminated in an extraordinary political saga that raised questions about whether the United States would continue to play a leadership role in supporting the international system and highlighting its values ​​globally.

“Our allies around the world have been watching Congress over the past six months asking the same thing: When it matters most, will America muster the strength to come together, overcome the centripetal force of partisan gravity, and confront the scale of the moment?” Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the majority leader, said Tuesday. “Tonight, under the watchful eyes of history, the Senate answers that question with a resounding and resounding ‘yes.’”

In a statement minutes after the vote, Biden said he would sign the bill into law “and address the American people as soon as it reaches my desk tomorrow so we can begin sending weapons and equipment to Ukraine this week.”

“Congress has passed legislation to strengthen our national security and send a message to the world about the strength of American leadership: We stand firm for democracy and freedom and against tyranny and oppression,” he said.

The House passed the package on Saturday in four parts: a measure for each of the three US allies and another aimed at smoothing the deal for conservatives that includes a provision that could lead to a nationwide ban on TikTok. It sent the legislation to the Senate as a single package that required only one up-or-down vote to pass.

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Facing intense opposition from his right wing to aid to Ukraine, House Speaker Mike Johnson structured the legislation in this way in the House to garner various coalitions of support without allowing the opposition of any one element to defeat the whole thing. The majority of Republicans in the House of Representatives opposed providing aid to Kiev.

Components of the draft law They are nearly identical to those passed by the Senate with bipartisan support in February. It includes $60.8 billion to Ukraine; $26.4 billion for Israel and humanitarian aid for civilians in conflict zones, including Gaza; And $8.1 billion for the Indo-Pacific region.

In addition to the stimulus package, which also includes new rounds of sanctions on Iranian and Russian officials, the House of Representatives added provisions to direct the president to request repayment of $10 billion in economic aid from the Ukrainian government. This was a reference to former President Donald Trump's call to provide any further aid to Kiev in the form of a loan. But the bill allows the president to forgive those loans starting in 2026.

Nine Republicans who opposed the aid legislation passed by the Senate in February supported the bill this time. When Senator Markwayne Mullen of Oklahoma changed his vote on Tuesday, this time agreeing to move the legislation forward, Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader, admired it on the Senate floor.

“75% of the bill, the total funding, stays within the United States,” Mr. Mullen said on Newsmax, explaining his support for the bill. “This is what a lot of people don't realize. This applies to our defense industry. This goes into replenishing our munitions.

Fifteen right-wing Republican senators who oppose aid to Ukraine voted against the legislation. Senator Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, who opposed the measure but was one of three Republicans who did not vote on its final passage, said Congress was “rushing to increase funding for a war that has no chance of achieving a positive outcome.”

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“Pumping more money into Ukraine’s coffers will only prolong the conflict and lead to more loss of life,” Mr. Tuberville said. “No one in the White House, the Pentagon, or the State Department can articulate what victory in this fight looks like. And they couldn’t when we sent the first batch of aid more than two years ago. We must work with Ukraine and Russia to negotiate an end to this madness.”

Three liberals, Democratic Senators Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Peter Welch of Vermont, as well as Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, also opposed the measure. They said they could not agree to send more offensive weapons to Israel when the government's campaign in Gaza had killed tens of thousands of people and created a famine crisis there.

“We are now in an absurd situation where Israel is using American military aid to prevent the delivery of American humanitarian aid to the Palestinians,” Sanders said. “If that's not crazy, I don't know what is. But it's also a clear violation of American law. Given that reality, we shouldn't be having this discussion today. It's illegal to continue current military aid to Israel, let alone send another $9 billion.” Without any conditions.”

But a large majority of senators from both parties supported the legislation, and Senate leaders viewed its passage as a victory, especially in light of the opposition that had built up in the House to Ukraine aid.

For months, Johnson and right-wing Republicans in the House of Representatives have refused to accept aid to Ukraine unless Biden agrees to take tough measures to limit immigration at the US border with Mexico. When Senate Democrats this year approved legislation tying aid to tougher border enforcement provisions, Trump condemned it and Republicans immediately rejected it.

The Senate then passed its own $95 billion emergency aid legislation for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan without any immigration measures, increasing political pressure on the House to do the same. For weeks, the message to Johnson from Mr. Schumer and Mr. McConnell has been the same: Pass the Senate bill.

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In extensive remarks on the Senate floor on Tuesday before the procedural vote, Mr. McConnell described Congress’ approval of the aid package as “a test of American resolve, and our readiness and willingness to lead.” He rebuked naysayers in his party, criticizing those who, he said, “indulge the fantasy of tearing down the drawbridge.”

“Make no mistake: The delay in providing Ukraine with the weapons needed to defend itself has made it less likely that Russian aggression will be defeated,” McConnell said. “Indecision and indecision have exacerbated the challenges we face. Today’s action is overdue, but our work does not end here. Confidence in American resolve cannot be rebuilt overnight. Expanding and restocking the arsenal of democracy does not happen just by magic.

Ukrainian officials welcomed the imminent passage of the bill.

Ruslan Stefanchuk, Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine I posted a photo On social media, lawmakers appeared carrying American flags inside the chamber in Kyiv, an expression of “gratitude to the United States and to every member of the House of Representatives who supported the aid bill for Ukraine.” We look forward to a similar decision from the Senate.”

He added: “The United States has been and will remain a strategic partner that stands shoulder to shoulder with the Ukrainian people in our fight against the Russian aggressor!” Mr. Stefanchuk added.

The photo brought to mind the scene that played out on the House floor Saturday when Democrats waved miniature Ukrainian flags as they voted for the aid bill. They were rebuked by Mr. Johnson and other Republicans, who called it a violation of decorum and said only American flags should be flown in the chamber.

Lara Jax He contributed reporting from Rome.