US House approves aid package worth billions for Ukraine, Israel

The Democratic-majority Senate is expected to vote on the bill next week, sending it to President Joe Biden to sign into law.

The United States House of Representatives with broad bipartisan support has passed a $95bn legislative package providing security assistance to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, despite bitter objections from Republican hardliners.

The legislation proceeded on Saturday to the Democratic-majority Senate, which passed a similar measure more than two months ago.

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

The Senate is expected to pass the measure next week, sending it to Biden to sign into law.

The bills provide about $61bn to address the conflict in Ukraine, including $23bn to replenish US weapons, stocks and facilities; $26bn for Israel, including $9bn for humanitarian needs; and $8bn for the Asia Pacific, including Taiwan.

Zelenskyy thanks the House

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expressed his thanks, saying US lawmakers moved to keep “history on the right track” by supporting his country after it was invaded by Russia.

“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,” Zelenskyy said on X.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, meanwhile, said the new US legislation would “deepen crisis throughout the world”.

“Military assistance to the [Kyiv] regime is a direct sponsorship of terrorist activities,” Zakharova said on Telegram.

It was unclear how quickly the new military funding for Ukraine will be depleted, likely leading to 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 the passage of the Ukraine funding was 311-112. Only 101 Republicans supported the legislation, with 112 voting against it.

Al Jazeera’s Patty Culhane, reporting from Washington, DC, said the number of Republicans who voted against the bill in the House is significantly high.

“It is very notable that 112 Republicans voted ‘no’ for different reasons,” she said.

“Some believe the European Union should do more to help Ukraine, while some others said the money should be spent at home and Ukraine has no accountability on how it spends the funds.

“This package passed, but it calls into question what might happen next if Ukraine needs more funds in the future,” our correspondent added.

House backs Israel

Meanwhile, the House’s actions during a rare Saturday session put on display some cracks in what is generally solid support for Israel within Congress.

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

Al Jazeera’s Culhane said the Democrats who voted against the bill on Israel were very vocal in their criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“The number might not sound like a lot… but this is really remarkable. It would be unimaginable a decade or two ago,” she said. “I believe it shows a great shift in the Democratic Party.”

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

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

The unusual four-bill package also contains a measure that includes a threat to ban the Chinese-owned social media app TikTok, as well as a potential transfer of seized Russian assets to Ukraine.

Some Republicans repeatedly raised the threat to remove Johnson. who became speaker in October after his predecessor, Kevin McCarthy, was taken down by party hardliners.



Al Jazeera and news agencies

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