US Senate passes $95B military package for Ukraine, Israel

The US Senate has passed $95 billion in war package to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, sending the bill 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 in an overwhelming 79-18 vote late on Tuesday after the House had approved the foreign package on Saturday.

Biden, who worked with congressional leaders to win support, said he will sign the bill quickly and start the process of sending weapons to Ukraine, which has been struggling to hold its front lines against Russia.

The legislation once signed into law would also send $26 billion in military support to Israel and $8 billion to Taiwan and the Asia-Pacific.

"I will sign this 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," said Biden, who added that the bill's passage proved America stands "resolutely for democracy and freedom, and against tyranny and oppression."

In an interview with Associated Press shortly before the vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, said that if Congress hadn't 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.

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

"I thank Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell for their strong leadership in advancing this bipartisan legislation, as well as all US Senators on both sides of the aisle who voted in favor of it," he posted on social media minutes after the bill passed.

Strengthening Ukraine's air defences

Schumer and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made passage of the legislation a top priority, agreeing to tie the Ukraine and Israel military package to help ensure passage.

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.

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.”

The $61 billion for Ukraine comes as the war-torn country desperately needs new firepower. Ukrainian soldiers have struggled as Russia has seized the momentum on the battlefield and gained significant territory.

Tiktok sale or ban

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 Johnson to the package the Senate passed in February as he tried to move the bill through the House despite significant opposition within his conference.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a longtime hawk who voted against the foreign aid package in February because it wasn’t paired with legislation to stem migration at the border, was one of the Republicans who switched their votes. "If we don't help Ukraine now, this war will spread, and Americans who are not involved will be involved," Graham said.

Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance, a Republican who is a close ally to Donald Trump, said that despite the strong showing of support for funding Ukraine’s defense, opposition is growing among Republicans.

"The United States is spread too thin," Vance said, "And that that argument I think, is winning the American people and it’s slowly winning the Senate, but it’s not going to happen overnight.”

The growing fault line in the GOP between those conservatives who are skeptical of the aid and the more traditional, "Reagan Republicans" who strongly support it may prove to be career-defining for the two top Republican leaders.

McConnell, who has made the Ukraine aid a top priority, said last month that he would step down from leadership after becoming increasingly distanced from many in his conference on the Ukraine aid and other issues.

Johnson, who said he put the bills on the floor after praying for guidance, faces threats of an ouster after a majority of Republicans voted against the aid to Ukraine.

Opponents in the Senate, like the House, included some left-wing senators who are opposed to aiding Israel as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has bombarded Gaza and killed thousands of civilians. Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Jeff Merkley voted against the package.

"We must end our complicity in this terrible war," Sanders said.


Source: TRT