US Senate passes US$95 billion Ukraine aid bill, but path ahead unclear

WASHINGTON: The Democratic-led US Senate on Tuesday (Feb 13) passed a US$95.34 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, although it faced an uncertain path ahead in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

The lawmakers approved the measure in a 70-29 vote that comfortably exceeded the chamber’s 60-vote threshold for passage and sent the legislation on to the House. Twenty-two Republicans joined most Democrats to support the bill.

“It’s certainly been years, perhaps decades, since the Senate has passed a bill that so greatly impacts not just our national security, not just the security of our allies, but the security of Western democracy,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in the Senate shortly after the predawn vote.

Schumer told a news conference later on Tuesday he was confident the bill would pass the House with support from both parties if Republican Speaker Mike Johnson would allow a vote.

“I call on Speaker Johnson to rise to the occasion, to do the right thing: Bring this bill to the floor quickly,” Schumer said.

It was not clear that Johnson would do so, having issued a statement before the Senate vote faulting it for lacking conservative provisions to stem a record flow of migrants across the US-Mexico border.

Ukraine leadership sees the funding as crucial as it continues to repel Russian attacks and tries to keep its battered economy going as the war nears its third year. US President Joe Biden has been pushing Congress to pass more aid for Ukraine for months, but has faced opposition from Republican hardliners, particularly in the House.

The House has not passed major assistance for Ukraine since Republicans took control of the chamber in January 2023.

The Senate vote occurred before sunrise, after eight hardline Republican opponents of Ukraine aid held a marathon of speeches that dominated the chamber floor from Monday afternoon into the early hours on Tuesday.

The package also includes funds for Israel, humanitarian aid for Palestinians in Gaza and funds to help Taiwan and other US partners in the Indo-Pacific stand up against China.

Ukrainian officials have warned of weapons shortages at a time when Russia is pressing ahead with renewed attacks.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy quickly hailed passage of the bill. “American assistance brings just peace in Ukraine closer and restores global stability, resulting in increased security and prosperity for all Americans and all the free world,” Zelenskyy said on the social platform X.

Both houses of Congress must approve the legislation before Biden can sign it into law.

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