US Senate passes Israel, Ukraine, Taiwan aid bill

Published February 14, 2024
US Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) speaks on the National Security Supplemental Bill during a press conference at the US Capitol on February 13, 2024 in Washington, DC. — AFP
US Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) speaks on the National Security Supplemental Bill during a press conference at the US Capitol on February 13, 2024 in Washington, DC. — AFP

WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden on Tuesday urged the House to follow the Senate’s lead and pass billions of dollars in war aid for Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan, as right-wing Republicans loyal to Donald Trump indicated they will block the bill.

Hours after the Senate finally approved security funding for democratic, pro-Western Ukraine — as well as for the top US strategic priorities of Israel and Taiwan — Biden challenged the House of Representatives to “move on this with urgency”, saying that Ukrainian troops were reportedly running out of ammunition as they enter a third year of resisting Russian invasion.

“If we do not stand against tyrants who seek to conquer or carve up their neighbours’ territory, the consequences for America’s national security will be significant. Our allies and adversaries alike will take note,” he stated.

However, right-wing House Speaker Mike Johnson has indicated he will heed the call of expected Republican presidential nominee Trump and not even allow the Senate bill to come to a vote in the lower chamber.

Biden urges House of Representatives to follow suit

The $95 billion package, which covers funding for Israel’s military and Taiwan and Ukraine, passed easily in the Senate when enough Republicans defied Trump’s behind-the-scenes maneuvers to join Democrats in preserving what has been one of Biden’s priorities as president.

Senator Chuck Schumer, the leader of the Senate where Democrats have a razor-thin majority, said, “The responsibility now falls on Speaker Johnson”. “History is looking upon the United States and seeing if we will stand up for our values, stand up to bullies like (Russian President Vladimir) Putin,” he added.

Schumer said a “large majority in the House,” where Republicans have the narrow margin of control, would support the bill if it were put to a vote.

“Unfortunately, too many Republicans succumbed to the ministrations of Donald Trump,” he said.

Tortuous path

The Senate vote and now looming showdown in the House are the latest stages in a tortuous path for the security bill — largely due to Trump-led manoeuvres to make sure it doesn’t pass.

Previously, Republicans insisted they would only continue assistance to Ukraine if there was simultaneously a major effort to tighten immigration controls at the US-Mexico border.

Democrats agreed to the condition, working with Republicans on a bill that imposed the harshest new measures in decades to stop illegal immigration along with the funding for Ukraine, Taiwan and Israel.

However, after the increasingly all-powerful Trump wing objected, with Johnson declaring the package would be “dead” in the House, Republican senators backed off, leaving Congress in chaos.

In his latest remarks, Johnson suggested that even if Republicans in the Senate backed the new Ukraine bill, he would once again demand border control measures before agreeing to consider support.

“We must fix our country before devoting more resources to Ukraine,” said Senator J.D. Vance, a strong Trump backer and one of the Republicans who opposed passage.

“That’s our message, and the fight goes on,” he wrote on X.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed gratitude for the Senate vote, taking to social media to thank “every US Senator who has supported continued assistance to Ukraine as we fight for freedom, democracy, and the values we all hold dear”.

Published in Dawn, February 14th, 2024

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