US Congress passes Ukraine, Israel foreign aid bill

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - WASHINGTON, April 24 — A sweeping foreign aid package easily passed the US Congress today after months of delay, clearing the way for fresh Ukraine funding amid advances from Russia’s invasion force and Kyiv’s shortages of military supplies.

The Senate approved by 79 to 18 four bills passed by the House of Representatives on Saturday, after House Republican leaders abruptly switched course last week and allowed a vote on the US$95 billion (RM453.8 billion) in mostly military aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan and US partners in the Indo-Pacific.

The four bills were combined into one package in the Senate.

The largest provides US$61 billion in critically needed funding for Ukraine; a second provides US$26 billion for Israel and humanitarian aid for civilians in conflict zones around the world, and a third mandates US$8.12 billion to “counter communist China” in the Indo-Pacific.

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A fourth, which the House added to the package last week, includes a potential ban on the Chinese-controlled social media app TikTok, measures for the transfer of seized Russian assets to Ukraine and new sanctions on Iran.

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

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.

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“This is an inflection point in history. Western democracy perhaps faced its greatest threat since the end of the Cold War,” 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.

Much of the opposition to the security assistance in both the House and Senate has come from Republicans with close ties to former US President Donald , a Ukraine aid sceptic who has stressed “America First” policies as he seeks a second term.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, a strong advocate for assisting Ukraine, expressed regret about the delay, largely due to hardline Republicans’ objections to adding more to the US$113 billion Washington had authorised for Kyiv since Russia began its full-scale invasion in February 2022.

“I think we’ve turned the corner on the isolationist movement,” McConnell told a news conference.

Some of the Ukraine money — US$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.

Humanitarian concerns

The influx of weapons should improve Kyiv’s chances of averting a major breakthrough in the east by Russian invaders, although it would have been more helpful if the aid had come closer to when Biden requested it last year, analysts said.

It was not immediately clear how the money for Israel would affect the conflict in Gaza. Israel already receives billions of dollars in annual US security assistance, but it more recently has faced its first direct aerial attack by Iran.

Aid supporters hope the humanitarian assistance will help Palestinians in Gaza, which has been devastated by Israel’s campaign against Hamas to retaliate for October 7 attacks that killed 1,200 people.

Gaza health authorities say the campaign has led to the deaths of more than 34,000 civilians in the Palestinian enclave.

It was the second time this year that the Democratic-led Senate passed security aid for Ukraine, Israel and the Indo-Pacific. The last bill, more than two months ago, garnered 70 per cent support in the 100-member chamber from Republicans and Democrats. But leaders of the Republican-controlled House would not allow a vote on the foreign aid until last week.

The legislation’s progress has been closely watched by industry, with US defence firms up for major contracts to supply equipment for Ukraine and other US partners.

Experts expect the supplemental spending to boost the order backlog of RTX Corp along with other major companies that receive government contracts, such as Lockheed Martin , General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman.

The House passed the Ukraine funding by 311-112, with all “no” votes coming from Republicans, many of whom were bitterly opposed to further assistance for Kyiv. Only 101 Republicans voted for it, forcing Speaker Mike Johnson to rely on Democratic support and prompting calls for his ouster as House leader.

However, the House left Washington for a week-long recess, without triggering a vote to remove Johnson. — Reuters

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