US Congress approves $95bn aid package for Ukraine and Israel

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It took some six months for Congress to pass additional aid to Ukraine
By Anthony Zurcher
BBC News, Washington

The US Senate has approved a $95bn (£76bn) foreign aid package that includes military support for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

President Joe Biden is expected to sign the legislation into law on Wednesday.

The Senate on Tuesday evening backed the measure passed by the US House of Representatives on Saturday.

It includes $61bn in military aid for Ukraine, which the Pentagon says can start being delivered to the war-torn nation “within days”.

It passed in a bipartisan vote of 79-18.

The Senate had passed a similar aid package in February, but a group of conservatives who oppose new Ukraine support prevented it from coming to a vote in the House of Representatives.

Last week, Democrats and Republicans in the lower chamber joined together to bypass this opposition.

They ultimately agreed to a package bill that included the foreign aid as well as legislation to confiscate Russian assets held by Western banks; new sanctions on Russia, Iran and China; and a provision that will force the Chinese company ByteDance to sell the popular social media service TikTok.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Republican Speaker of the House Mike Johnson had risen “to the occasion” when he pushed for passage of the foreign aid bill in his chamber.

“It was our bipartisanship, our linking of arms together that got this large and difficult bill through the Congress, despite many political ideologues, wanted to bring it down,” he said on Tuesday.

In the House on Saturday, a majority of Republicans in the chamber voted against the foreign aid package.

The bill faced intense resistance among a handful of Republicans, some in key positions of power in the House, who opposed any new aid to Ukraine.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump had opposed new aid to Ukraine in the past, but during a radio interview on Monday he praised Mr Johnson for structuring some Ukraine non-military aid as a loan.

The foreign aid package passed on Tuesday also includes:

$26.4bn in military support for Israel, with $9.1bn of that allocated to humanitarian aid for Gaza$8.1bn in funding for allies in the Asia-Pacific, including Taiwan, to “counter communist China”.

According to the Biden administration, previously approved US aid to Ukraine had been exhausted by the beginning of the year.

Officials warned that the situation was dire and that Ukraine was in danger of losing its two-year-old war with Russia if Congress had not approved new support.

The national security package also includes a provision that could lead to a nationwide ban on TikTok.

The popular social media app’s China-based parent company has nine months to sell its stake and find a US-approved buyer or see TikTok shut down across the US.

The statute gives the US president the option of extending the deadline by an additional 90 days, which means the soonest the ban could take effect is nearly a year from now.

The TikTok provision drew bipartisan support, with lawmakers arguing that the Chinese government could invoke security laws to compel ByteDance to hand over data about the app’s estimated 170 million US users.

TikTok has repeatedly said it has not provided, and would not provide, its foreign user data to the Chinese government.

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