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House passes critical aid package for Ukraine, Israel, other US allies

The package will now head to the Senate and then to President Biden, where passage in the coming days is nearly assured.
House passes critical aid package for Ukraine, Israel, other US allies
Posted at 2:06 PM, Apr 20, 2024

The House passed a $95 billion foreign aid package for Ukraine, Israel and other U.S. allies in a rare Saturday session after months of failures to reach an agreement on both sides of the aisle. 

Legislation also passed that would ban TikTok in the United States if the social media platform's China-based owner doesn’t sell its stake within a year. 

The weekend scene presented a striking display of congressional action after months of dysfunction and stalemate fueled by Republicans, who hold the majority but are deeply split over foreign aid, particularly for Ukraine as it fights Russia's invasion. Speaker Mike Johnson, putting his job on the line, is relying on Democratic support to ensure the military and humanitarian package is approved, and help flows to the U.S. allies.

There was a series of votes on three aid bills, for Ukraine, Israel and the Indo-Pacific, as well as a fourth that contains several other foreign policy proposals, including a clampdown on the popular social media platform TikTok.

The aid package is largely the same as the bipartisan package put together by the Senate months ago, but splitting it into separate bills allowed lawmakers to individually support some aid and not others. 

On Friday, the House voted on procedural rules for these bills, getting more Democratic votes than it did Republican votes which is unusual for it being a Republican majority. 

The bills will now head to the Senate, where passage in the coming days is nearly assured. President Joe Biden has promised to sign it immediately.

Passage through the House would have cleared away the biggest hurdle to Biden's funding request, first made in October as Ukraine's military supplies began to run low. The GOP-controlled House, skeptical of U.S. support for Ukraine, struggled for months over what to do, first demanding that any assistance be tied to policy changes at the U.S.-Mexico border, only to immediately reject a bipartisan Senate offer along those very lines.

Reaching an endgame has been an excruciating lift for Johnson that has tested both his resolve and his support among Republicans, with a small but growing number now openly urging his removal from the speaker's office. Yet congressional leaders cast the votes at a turning point in history — an urgent sacrifice as U.S. allies are beleaguered by wars and threats from continental Europe to the Middle East to Asia.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said the legislation is "an important investment in America's future. By providing approximately $50 billion that will flow directly into our defense industrial base, this bill will create good American jobs in more than 30 states even as it reinforces U.S. long-term security."

“The only thing that has kept terrorists and tyrants at bay is the perception of a strong America, that we would stand strong,” Johnson said this week. “And we will. I think that Congress is going to show that. This is a very important message that we are going to send the world."

Still, Congress has seen a stream of world leaders visit in recent months, from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, all but pleading with lawmakers to approve the aid. Globally, the delay left many questioning America's commitment to its allies.

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