US Congress poised to pass Ukraine aid, weapons coming soon

US Congress poised to pass Ukraine aid, weapons coming soon
# 24 April 2024 02:20 (UTC +04:00)

Billions of dollars in foreign aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan advanced in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, heading for a final vote after the House of Representatives abruptly ended a months-long stalemate and approved the assistance last week, APA reports.

The Senate voted by an overwhelming 80 to 19 to advance the package of four bills passed by the House, far more than the 60 needed to pave the way for a vote on final passage as soon as Tuesday or Wednesday.

One of the bills provides $61 billion for Ukraine, a second provides $26 billion for Israel and humanitarian aid for civilians in conflict zones around the world, and a third mandates $8.12 billion "to counter communist China" in the Indo-Pacific. A fourth includes a potential ban on the social media app TikTok, measures for the transfer of seized Russian assets to Ukraine and new sanctions on Iran.

President Joe Biden has promised to sign the measure into law as soon as it reaches his desk, and his administration is already preparing a $1 billion military aid package for Ukraine, the first to be sourced from the bill, two U.S. officials told Reuters.

After the procedural vote, the Senate's Democratic and Republican leaders predicted that Congress had turned the corner in putting Russian President Vladimir Putin and other foreign adversaries on notice that Washington will continue supporting Ukraine and other foreign partners.

"This is an inflection point in history. Western democracy perhaps faced its greatest threat since the end of the Cold War," Senate Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in the Senate.

The aid package could be the last approved for Ukraine until after elections in November when the White House, House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate are up for grabs.

Almost all the "no" votes - 17 of the 19 - came from Republicans, many of them close allies of former U.S. President Donald Trump, a Ukraine aid skeptic who has stressed "America First" policies as he seeks a second term in November.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said his party has tended to be isolationist when a Democrat is in the White House, but he noted that well over half the Republican conference had voted to advance the bill.

When asked about complaints that his party's objections meant it took six months for the aid to pass, McConnell told a news conference, "I would say better late than never."

Some of the Ukraine money - $10 billion in economic support - comes in the form of a loan, which Trump had suggested. But the bill lets the president forgive the loan starting in 2026.

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