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US Senate begins passage vote on Ukraine
In the midst of increasing uncertainty over the fate of legislation in the Republican-controlled House, the Democratic leadership in the US Senate began voting on Tuesday to pass a 34 billion aid program for Taiwan, Israel, and the Ukraine.
For lawmakers to send the bill to the floor, they need to reach a threshold of 60 votes. It wasn’t clear how long it would take for the chamber to complete the voting process.
Democratic President Joe Biden has been urging Congress for months to expedite new assistance for American allies, including Ukraine and Taiwan in the Indo-Pacific. Following the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, he also requested funds for humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza alongside support for American allies.
Ukrainian officials have also warned of a shortage of weapons at a time when Russia is launching new attacks.
However, before Biden’s signature, both houses of Congress must approve this legislation.
It appears that the bill will face lengthy hurdles in the Senate, where Republican Speaker Mike Johnson has been blamed for conservative provisions to halt record flows of migrants at the US-Mexico border.
In a statement released late Monday, Johnson said, “Without changes to any border policies from the Senate, the House will have to continue to work on these important matters on its own terms.”
Johnson said, “The Senate is entitled to better than the status quo,” suggesting that the House could split the bill into separate pieces, as suggested in the past.
The chamber’s number two Republican senator, John Thune, said it wasn’t clear what Johnson would do.
Thune said, “I think the Senate is going to move forward on an issue. Clearly, they’re going to address Israel.”
Hardline Republicans predicted that the US Senate bill would end when it reached the House.
Republican Senator Rick Scott of Florida said in his morning speech, “The bill before us today… will never pass the Senate, will never become law.”
The legislation includes billion for Ukraine, billion for Israel in its fight against Hamas, and .83 billion to support partners in the Indo-Pacific and counter China’s aggression.
It will also provide .15 billion in humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza and the West Bank, as well as in other conflict areas around the world.
Republicans have been demanding that the foreign aid bill include border restrictions.
However, after months of bipartisan negotiations on a border security compromise, which was rejected by former White House hopeful Donald Trump, most Senate Republicans passed the bill.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer removed the border security language from the bill last week.
Trump, who hoped to use the border issue to oust Biden from office in November’s election, has since begun criticizing the foreign aid bill, saying on social media that American allies should take loans instead of aid.
The aid for Ukraine faces tough opposition in the US Senate, where Republicans, who control the chamber with a slim majority, are more influenced by Trump’s interests.