Selangor Journal
Flags flutter as pro-Ukrainian supporters demonstrate outside the US Capitol in Washington, the United States, on April 20, 2024. — Picture by REUTERS

United States House passes US$95 bln Ukraine, Israel aid package

WASHINGTON, April 21 — The United States’ (US) House of Representatives passed a US$95 billion (RM452.2 billion) legislative package yesterday amid broad bipartisan support, providing security assistance to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan, over bitter objections from Republican hardliners.

The legislation now proceeds to the Democratic-majority Senate, which passed a similar measure over two months ago.

US leaders from Democratic President Joe Biden to top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell had urged embattled Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson to bring it up for a vote.

The Senate is set to begin considering the House-passed bill on Tuesday (April 23), with some preliminary votes that afternoon. Final passage was expected sometime next week, which would clear the way for Biden to sign it into law.

The bills provide US$60.84 billion (RM289.5 billion) to address the conflict in Ukraine, including US$23 billion (RM109.4 billion) to replenish US weapons, stocks and facilities, US$26 billion (RM123.7 billion) for Israel, including US$9.1 billion (RM43.31 billion) for humanitarian needs, and US$8.12 billion (RM38.65 billion) for the Indo-Pacific, including Taiwan.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expressed his thanks, saying US lawmakers moved to keep “history on the right track.”

“The vital US aid bill passed today by the House will keep the war from expanding, save thousands and thousands of lives, and help both of our nations to become stronger,” he said on X (formerly Twitter).

It was unclear how quickly the new military funding for Ukraine would be depleted, which would likely cause calls for further action by Congress.

Biden, who had urged Congress since last year to approve the additional aid to Ukraine, said in a statement: “It comes at a moment of grave urgency, with Israel facing unprecedented attacks from Iran and Ukraine under continued bombardment from Russia.”

The vote on passage of the Ukraine funding was 311-112. Significantly, 112 Republicans opposed the legislation, with only 101 in support.

“Mike Johnson is a lame duck … he is done,” far-right Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene told the press afterwards.

She has been a leading opponent of helping Ukraine in its war against Russia and has taken steps that threaten to remove Johnson from office over this issue. However, Greene stopped short of doing so yesterday.

During the vote, several lawmakers waved small Ukrainian flags as it became clear that an element of the package was headed to passage. Johnson warned lawmakers that was a “violation of decorum.”

Meanwhile, the House’s actions during a rare session yesterday put on display some cracks in what generally is solid support for Israel within Congress. Recent months have seen progressive Democrats express anger with Israel’s government and its conduct of the war in Gaza.

The vote, in which the Israel aid was passed 366-58, had 37 Democrats and 21 Republicans in opposition.

Passage of the long-awaited legislation was closely watched by US defense contractors, who could be in line for huge contracts to supply equipment for Ukraine and other US partners.

Johnson this week chose to ignore ouster threats by hardline members of his fractious 218-213 majority and push forward the measure that includes Ukraine funding as it struggles to fight off a two-year Russian invasion.

The unusual four-bill package also includes a measure threatening to ban the Chinese-owned social media app TikTok and the potential transfer of seized Russian assets to Ukraine.

Some hardline Republicans voicing strong opposition to further Ukraine aid argued the United States can ill afford it given its rising US$34 trillion (RM161.8 trillion) national debt. They have repeatedly raised the threat of ousting Johnson, who became speaker in October after his predecessor, Kevin McCarthy, was ousted by party hardliners.

“It is not the perfect legislation; it is not the legislation that we would write if Republicans were in charge of both the House, the Senate, and the White House.

“This is the best possible product that we can get under these circumstances to take care of these really important obligations,” Johnson told reporters on Friday (April 19).

Representative Bob Good, chair of the hardline House Freedom Caucus, told the press on Friday that the bills represent a “slide down into the abyss of greater fiscal crisis and America-last policies that reflect Biden and (Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck) Schumer and (House Democratic leader Hakeem) Jeffries, and do not reflect the American people.”

But Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who carries huge influence in the party, on April 12 voiced support for Johnson and, in a Thursday (April 18) social media post, said Ukraine’s survival is important for the US.

— Reuters

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