Aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan heads to Senate for final approval after months of delay

WASHINGTON — The Senate returns to Washington on Tuesday to vote on $95 billion in war aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, taking the final steps in Congress to send the legislation to President Joe Biden’s desk after months of delays and controversy internal debate about how involved the United States should be abroad.

The $61 billion for Ukraine comes as the war-torn country desperately needs new firepower and Russian President Vladimir Putin has stepped up his attacks. Soldiers have struggled to hold the front lines as Russia has seized momentum on the battlefield and forced Ukraine to cede significant territory.

Bidentold told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday that the US will soon send much-needed air defense weapons. The House approved the package in a series of four votes on Saturday, sending it back to the Senate for final approval.

“The president has assured me that the package will be approved quickly and that it will be powerful and will strengthen our air defense as well as our long-range and artillery capabilities,” Zelenskyy said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

The legislation would also send $26 billion in war aid to Israel and humanitarian aid to Gazans, and $8 billion to counter China in Taiwan and the Indo-Pacific. In an effort to gain more votes, House Majority Republicans also added a bill to the package that could ban social media app TikTok in the U.S. if its Chinese owners don’t sell their stake within a year. The foreign aid portion of the bill is similar to what the Senate passed in February, with some minor changes and additions, including the TikTok bill and a provision that $9 billion of the economic aid to Ukraine be in the form of “forgivable loans’.

The package has received broad support from Congress since Biden first requested the money last summer. But congressional leaders have faced strong opposition from a growing number of conservatives who question U.S. involvement in foreign wars and argue that Congress should instead focus on the wave of migration at the U.S.-Mexico border .

The growing rift within the Republican Party between conservatives skeptical of the aid and more traditional “Reagan-era” Republicans who strongly support it could define the careers of the two top Republican leaders. Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has made aid to Ukraine a top priority, said last month he would resign after increasingly distancing himself from many at his conference on the issue and others. House Speaker Mike Johnson, who put the bills on the floor after praying for guidance, is facing impeachment after a majority of Republicans voted against it.

McConnell has made it clear that stopping Putin is important enough to risk his political capital.

“The national security of the United States depends on the willingness of its leaders to build, maintain, and exercise hard power,” McConnell said Saturday after passage in the House of Representatives. The Biden administration and my colleagues in Congress must do the same.”

Johnson said after the passage in the House of Representatives that “we have done our job here, and I think history will judge it well.”

The Senate could approve the relief package, now reconsolidated into one bill, on Tuesday afternoon if senators can agree on the timing for the vote. If Republicans who oppose the legislation decide to protest and halt the process, final votes will likely be Wednesday.

The legislation first passed the Senate in February by an overwhelming 70-29 vote, and could get even more votes this time after the House added the loan provisions. The idea for a loan started with former President Donald Trump, who opposed the aid.

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a longtime Republican hawk who voted against it in February because it was not accompanied by legislation to curb migration at the border, praised Johnson after the vote and indicated he will vote for it this time. “The idea that the United States will be more secure if we pull the plug on our foreign friends and allies is wrong,” he said on X.

The revised House package also included several Republican priorities that were acceptable to Democrats to get the bill passed. These include proposals that would allow the US to seize frozen assets from Russia’s central bank to rebuild Ukraine; impose sanctions on Iran, Russia, China and criminal organizations that traffic fentanyl; and could eventually ban TikTok in the U.S. if its owner, ByteDance Ltd., doesn’t sell. That bill has broad bipartisan support in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Opponents in the Senate, such as the House of Representatives, are likely to include some left-wing senators opposed to helping Israel since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has bombed Gaza, killing thousands of civilians. Vermont Sens. Bernie Sanders, an independent, and Peter Welch, a Democrat, both voted against the package in February.

“This bill provides Netanyahu with an additional $10 billion in unlimited military aid for his horrific war against the Palestinian people,” Sanders said just before the vote on X. “That is unconscionable.”