Friday, May 24, 2024

After stalling for months, Ukraine aid vote heads to House of Representatives

(BBC News) US President Joe Biden has said he “strongly supports” a new $61-billion aid bill for Ukraine, arguing it will “send a message to the world.”

The long-stalled measure is one of four that the House of Representatives will vote on this Saturday.

The legislation will include funding for Israel as well as the Indo-Pacific.

Opposition from the right wing of the Republican party has stymied potential assistance for Ukraine for months.

Some of those lawmakers have sought to tie Ukraine assistance with funding for US-Mexico border enforcement.

Several Republican lawmakers, including Georgia’s Marjorie Taylor Greene, who wants House Speaker Mike Johnson removed from his post, have decried his plan.

With Republicans holding their smallest majority in the House in decades, Johnson may have to appeal to Democrats to get the bills passed.

In a statement after Johnson’s announcement, Biden said he would sign the bill into law immediately.

“Israel is facing unprecedented attacks from Iran, and Ukraine is facing continued bombardment from Russia that has intensified dramatically in the last month,” the Democratic president added.

“The House must pass the package this week, and the Senate should quickly follow.”

He said the funding would provide humanitarian aid for Gaza.

Democrats and some centrist Republicans have been calling for months for Ukraine aid to be passed quickly, arguing it is vital for that country’s defence against Russia and US national security.

Johnson’s announcement on Wednesday comes more than two months after a $95-billion bill encompassing various aid packages passed the US Senate.

The new plan breaks the aid packages into separate bills, which Johnson said include “a loan structure for aid, and enhanced strategy and accountability.”

The Ukraine bill includes weapons and other “lethal assistance” for Ukrainian forces.

It also requires cost-matching requirements from other US allies, as well as a repayment agreement from Ukraine’s government.

The announcement comes on the same day as NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance was making “an important effort” to beef up Ukraine’s air defences.

Seventeen people were killed and 60 people wounded in a Russian missile attack on the city of Chernihiv in northern Ukraine earlier in the day.

The bill focused on Israel would provide $26 billion, partly for replenishing the country’s Iron Dome and David’s Sling defensive systems, while the Indo-Pacific bill is primarily meant to limit China and help Taiwan fend off its “military provocations”, according to the House Appropriations Committee’s leaders.

A fourth piece of legislation folds in the “Rebuilding Economic Prosperity and Opportunity for Ukrainians”, or Repo Act, to allow seized Russian assets to be given to Ukraine, as well as a bill meant to crack down on TikTok.

Johnson has rolled measures to strengthen security at the US-Mexico border into a separate bill.

That bill includes the “core components” legislation known as HR2, which was passed by the Republican-controlled House last year over significant Democratic opposition, he said.

HR2 stalled in the Democratic-majority Senate.

Members of the staunchly conservative Freedom Caucus have come out against Johnson’s foreign-aid plan, in large part over border security.

“The Republican Speaker of the House is seeking a rule to pass almost $100 billion in foreign aid – while unquestionably, dangerous criminals, terrorists [and] fentanyl pour across our border,” Freedom Caucus member and Texas Republican Chip Roy wrote on X.

“The border ‘vote’ in this package is a watered-down dangerous cover vote,” Roy added. “I will oppose.”

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