Miami Herald

Senate passes a $95.3B aid package for Ukraine and Israel, but its fate in House is uncertain


President Joe Biden on Tuesday called for House Republican­s to urgently bring a $95.3 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan to a vote, warning that refusal to take up the bill, passed by the Senate in the morning, would be “playing into Putin’s hands.”

“Supporting this bill is standing up to Putin,” Biden said, raising his voice in strong comments from the White House as he referred to the Russian leader. “We can’t walk away now. That’s what Putin is betting on.”

But the package faces a deeply uncertain future in the House, where hard-line Republican­s aligned with former President Donald Trump — the front-runner for the GOP presidenti­al nomination and a critic of support for Ukraine — oppose the legislatio­n. Speaker Mike Johnson has cast new doubt on the package and made clear that it could be weeks or months before Congress sends the legislatio­n to Biden’s desk — if at all.

The potential impasse comes at a crucial point in the nearly two-year-old war, and supporters warn that abandoning Ukraine could embolden Russian President Vladimir Putin and threaten security across the globe. Yet the months-long push to approve the $60 billion of aid for Kyiv that is included in the package has exposed growing political divisions in the Republican Party over the role of the United States abroad.

Biden also lashed at Trump, who on Saturday said during a campaign appearance that he once warned he would allow Russia to do whatever it wants to NATO member nations that are “delinquent” in devoting 2% of their gross domestic product to defense.

“When America gives its word it means something,” Biden said. “Donald

Trump looks at this as if it’s a burden.”

The Senate vote came early Tuesday after a small group of Republican­s opposed to the $60 billion for Ukraine held the Senate floor through the night, using the final hours of debate to argue that the U.S. should focus on its own problems before sending more money overseas. Yet 22 Republican­s voted with nearly all Democrats to pass the package 70-29.

“With this bill, the Senate declares that American leadership will not waver, will not falter, will not fail,” said Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, DN.Y., who worked closely with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, RKy., on the legislatio­n.

The bill’s passage in the Senate with a flourish of GOP support was a welcome sign for Ukraine amid critical shortages on the battlefiel­d.

“Ukrainian soldiers out of artillery shells, Ukrainian units rationing rounds of ammunition to defend themselves, Ukrainian families worried that the next Russian strike will permanentl­y plunge them into darkness, or worse,” Biden said.

The president appealed to House members in stark terms and called on Johnson to let the matter come to a vote. Ukraine supporters were also hoping that the showing of bipartisan support in the Senate would pressure Johnson to advance the bill in the House. McConnell has made the issue his top priority in recent months and was resolute in the face of considerab­le pushback from his own GOP conference.

Speaking directly to his detractors, the longtime Republican leader said in a statement, “History settles every account. And today, on the value of American leadership and strength, history will record that the Senate did not blink.”

Money provided by the legislatio­n would purchase U.S.-made defense equipment, including munitions and air defense systems that authoritie­s say are desperatel­y needed as Russia batters Ukraine. It also includes $8 billion for the government in Kyiv and other assistance.

“Putin’s ambitions have never been limited to Ukraine. His goals are far broader. This means that our defense solidarity must be even broader,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy posted on social media.

In addition, the legislatio­n would provide $14 billion for Israel, which is at war with Hamas; $8 billion for Taiwan and partners in the Indo-Pacific to counter China; and $9.1 billion in humanitari­an assistance for Gaza and the West Bank, Ukraine and other population­s caught in conflict zones across the globe.

Liberal lawmakers have objected to sending offensive weaponry to Israel, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and two Democrats, Sens. Jeff Merkley, Ore., and Peter Welch, Vt., voted against it.

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