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U.S. Senate sends to the House a $95 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan

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Jennifer Shutt, Georgia Recorder
February 13, 2024

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly early Tuesday to approve a $95 billion emergency spending package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

The measure now goes to the U.S. House, where Speaker Mike Johnson hasn’t committed to putting the bill on the floor for debate and votes amid opposition to the military and humanitarian assistance from some in the right flank of his conference.

The Senate’s 70-29 vote — which followed an overnight session where GOP senators opposed to the bill spoke most of the night — shows it has broad bipartisan support in at least one chamber of Congress, though it’ll need House approval before it can go to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature.

Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, released a statement late Monday evening indicating he doesn’t approve of the Senate bill in part because it does not contain any immigration provisions, after Senate Republicans tanked a bipartisan border security deal that was also opposed by Johnson and House GOP leaders.

“The mandate of national security supplemental legislation was to secure America’s own border before sending additional foreign aid around the world. It is what the American people demand and deserve,” Johnson said.

“Now, in the absence of having received any single border policy change from the Senate, the House will have to continue to work its own will on these important matters,” he added. “America deserves better than the Senate’s status quo.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, supported the bill, saying it is in the best interest of U.S. national security.

“Our adversaries want America to decide that reinforcing allies and partners is not in our interest, and that investing in strategic competition is not worth it,” McConnell said. “They want us to take hard-earned credibility and light it on fire.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, called on Johnson to put the bill up for a vote in that chamber and said he hoped to talk “directly” with the speaker about the legislation.

“My message is, this is a rare moment where history is looking upon the United States and seeing if we will stand up for our values, stand up to bullies like (Russian President Vladimir) Putin and do the right thing,” Schumer said. “I will say to Speaker Johnson, I am confident that there’s a large majority in the House who will vote for this bill.”

Republicans voting to approve the bill included Arkansas’ John Boozman, West Virginia’s Shelley Moore Capito, Louisiana’s Bill Cassidy, Maine’s Susan Collins, Texas’ John Cornyn, North Dakota’s Kevin Cramer, Idaho’s Mike Crapo, Iowa’s Joni Ernst, Iowa’s Chuck Grassley, North Dakota’s John Hoeven, Louisiana’s John Kennedy, McConnell, Kansas’ Jerry Moran, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, Idaho’s Jim Risch, Utah’s Mitt Romney, South Dakota’s Mike Rounds, Alaska’s Dan Sullivan, South Dakota’s John Thune, North Carolina’s Thom Tillis, Mississippi’s Roger Wicker and Indiana’s Todd Young.

Oregon’s Jeff Merkley, Vermont independent Bernie Sanders and Vermont’s Peter Welch were the three Democrats who voted against passage.

‘A strong message to Putin’ 

Senate Appropriations Chair Patty Murray, a Washington state Democrat, said during debate the legislation is essential aid for U.S. allies, who have “so much at stake.”

“By passing this bill, we will show our allies we stand by our word and we will help them in their time of need. We will show dictators that their flagrant attacks will not go unchecked and they cannot steamroll our allies,” Murray said. “And we will show the world that American leadership is still alive and well, and that we are still a strong protector of democracy and provider of humanitarian aid.”

Maine’s Collins, the top Republican on the spending panel, urged her fellow GOP senators to support the legislation, saying it would invest heavily in the U.S. military and other countries that aid national security interests.

“This bill focuses on fortifying our military, rebuilding our own defense industrial base and strengthening and defending our partners and allies,” Collins said.

“This legislation would send a strong message to Putin that his goal of capturing free, democratic nations will not be allowed to succeed; it would reassure our closest ally in the Middle East, Israel, that terrorists will not achieve their goal of wiping that nation off the map; and it would counter ever-growing Chinese aggression,” Collins added.

Senators, she said, should “recognize the perilous times in which we are living and vote for this absolutely essential national security bill.”

Some Republicans still demand border changes

Tennessee Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn argued that Congress should deal with the “crisis” at the southern border before sending assistance to allies at war.

Republicans late last year insisted that in order for their party to approve additional military assistance, Congress must address immigration policy and border security.

A group of three senators — Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Lankford, Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy and Arizona independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema — spent months brokering a deal that was then blocked by nearly all GOP senators.

The stalemate led McConnell to call on the Senate to pass a stand-alone bill for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

Blackburn rebuked her colleagues for not renegotiating that bipartisan border security and immigration deal.

“There are some of us who have said, ‘Hey, wait a minute, we’ve got these problems at our southern border and we really can’t help others until we deal with the crisis at our southern border,’” Blackburn said.

Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee opposed approving the foreign assistance package before Congress can make changes to border security and immigration policy.

“Republicans stand for border security and the rule of law,” Lee said. “Regardless of where they come down on Ukraine aid, they should realize that we’re forfeiting that leverage, that bargaining power tonight if we vote for this.”

Lee also appeared to oppose additional aid to Ukraine, saying it wouldn’t help Ukrainians.

“We’re not helping any group of people whenever we prolong a war in which they’re involved,” Lee said. “It doesn’t help the Ukrainian people to prolong their suffering in this war.”

Assistance for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan

The bill would provide Ukraine with $60 billion in assistance that would predominantly go to the U.S. departments of Defense and State, as well as the U.S. Agency for International Development.

An additional $14 billion would provide military assistance to Israel that would flow through the U.S. Defense Department.

More than $9 billion would go to humanitarian assistance, including emergency water, food and shelter for civilians in Gaza, Ukraine and other conflict zones around the world.

U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations throughout much of the Middle East, would get $2.4 billion to address the attacks on shipping vessels and military ships in the Red Sea, according to a summary of the bill.

U.S. partners in the Indo-Pacific region, including Taiwan, would receive $4.8 billion in funding through the U.S. Defense Department.

The legislation includes $8 million for the Defense Department inspector general and $25 million for the inspectors general offices for the State Department and USAID.

The package also includes the Fentanyl Eradication and Narcotics Deterrence, or the FEND Off Fentanyl Act.The bipartisan bill, sponsored by Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown and South Carolina Republican Sen. Tim Scott, would allow the U.S. “to apply economic and other financial sanctions to those who engage in the international trafficking of fentanyl, fentanyl precursors, or other related opioids to protect the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.”

Georgia Recorder is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Georgia Recorder maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John McCosh for questions: info@georgiarecorder.com. Follow Georgia Recorder on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Georgia Recorder under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.