US Senate Passes Ukraine And Israel Aid Package After Months Of Republican Delays

The bill would also ban the popular video-sharing app TikTok in the US next year unless it is divested from its Chinese parent company.

The US Senate has approved long-awaited aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, sending the bill to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature and reaffirming America’s commitment to its allies abroad after months of delays caused by intra-party Republican warfare on Capitol Hill.

Senators voted 79-18 in favour of the $95 billion foreign aid package, which includes $61 billion for Ukraine, $8 billion for Taiwan and $26 billion for Israel and humanitarian aid.

The legislation also includes a controversial provision forcing the popular social media app TikTok to be sold or to face a ban in the US.

The bill picked up more support since the last time the chamber voted on a similar package in February: 10 senators changed their votes to advance the measure on Tuesday.

“Today the Senate sends a unified message to the entire world: America will always defend democracy in its hour of need,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor on Tuesday.

“We tell our allies: We will stand with you. We tell our adversaries: Don’t mess with us. We tell the world: We will do everything to defend democracy and our way of life.”

“This is an important day for America and a very important day for freedom-loving countries around the world,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell taking a bit of a victory lap after spending months trying to build Republican support for the bill.

“I think we’ve turned the corner on the isolationist movement,” the retiring Republican leader added, blaming commentators on the far right, including former Fox News host Tucker Carlson and former President Donald Trump, for contributing to the delays.

Whether the Republican Party has rejected isolationism for good is debatable, however. In the House, 112 Republicans voted against the foreign aid package, more than a majority of the conference. And the job of House Speaker Mike Johnson still hangs in the balance as a small but vocal band of far-right members continue to push for his demise over spending and US aid to Ukraine.

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene is keeping everyone in suspense about whether she will trigger a vote to oust him from the speakership once the House returns from a recess next week.

In the Senate, more Republicans ended up supporting the foreign aid package even though it didn’t include provisions to toughen security on the US-Mexico border that they had initially demanded last year. When a bipartisan deal on border provisions finally came together in February, Trump urged Republicans to kill it, sending Congress back to square one.

“There’s no question the delay was harmful,” McConnell admitted on Tuesday.

Senator Lindsay Graham, one of the Republicans who switched his position in support of the bill, argued that allowing Russia to win in Ukraine would mean more costly US engagement in the future.

“It is better to help Ukraine fight the Russian invaders with military assistance and aid in the form of a loan. If Russia succeeds in Ukraine, it will mean a fight between Russia and NATO nations,” Graham said.

Only three senators who caucus with the Democratic Party opposed the bill because of its approach to Israel: Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Peter Welch and Senator Jeff Merkley.

Sanders said he was disappointed the Senate rejected his request to vote on an amendment that would have ended unconditional US support for Israel, “which has killed and wounded over 100,000 Palestinians, two-thirds of whom are women and children.”

Other Democrats who support placing conditions on aid to Israel stressed that Congress needed to urgently act on Ukraine and that any changes to the bill could have added to the delays.

“This bill also has a TikTok provision that I think makes no sense, but right now we need to get this aid to Ukraine, and we don’t have the luxury in the Senate of voting on individual pieces,” Senator Elizabeth Warren said.

The TikTok provision would ban the popular video-sharing app in the US in nine months unless it is divested from its Chinese parent company, ByteDance. It also allows the White House to delay that deadline by an additional 90 days.

Many lawmakers on both sides of the aisle view TikTok as a national security threat, fearing the Chinese government could use the app to mine American users’ data for leverage while inundating them with political propaganda. The Chinese embassy in Washington has been quietly lobbying on Capitol Hill against the measure.

Trump on Monday said that young voters should blame Biden if the US government bans TikTok, even though Trump supported such a ban when he was president.

Though some Democrats have come out against the TikTok legislation, many in the party have embraced efforts to rein the platform in, dismissing the political effects on the 2024 election.

Akbar Shahid Ahmed contributed reporting.


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