World

Uncertainty over US Senate’s 93.5bn dollar Ukraine and Israel package

The bill’s passage through the Senate was a welcome sign for Ukraine amid critical shortages on the battlefield.

Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer signals success to reporters after a divided Senate passed an emergency spending package to provide send military aid to Ukraine and Israel (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
Congress Ukraine Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer signals success to reporters after a divided Senate passed an emergency spending package to provide send military aid to Ukraine and Israel (J. Scott Applewhite/AP) (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

The US Senate has passed a 95.3 billion dollar (£75.5 billion) aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, pushing ahead after months of difficult negotiations and growing political divisions in the Republican Party over the role of the US abroad.

The vote came after a small group of Republicans opposed to 60 billion dollars (£47.5 billion) for Ukraine held the Senate floor through the night, using the final hours of debate to argue that the US should focus on its own problems before sending more money overseas.

But 22 Republicans voted with nearly all Democrats to pass the package 70-29, with supporters arguing that abandoning Ukraine could embolden Russian President Vladimir Putin and threaten national security across the globe.

“With this bill, the Senate declares that American leadership will not waiver, will not falter, will not fail,” said Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, who worked closely with Republican leader Mitch McConnell on the legislation.

The bill’s passage through the Senate with a flourish of GOP support was a welcome sign for Ukraine amid critical shortages on the battlefield.

Yet the package faces a deeply uncertain future in the House, where hard-line Republicans aligned with former President Donald Trump — the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination, and a critic of support for Ukraine — oppose the legislation.

Speaker Mike Johnson cast new doubt on the package in a statement Monday evening, making clear that it could be weeks or months before Congress sends the legislation to President Joe Biden’s desk, if at all.

Mr Biden urgently called for House Republicans to get behind legislation, warning that opposing it would play into “Putin’s hands.”

He said: “Supporting this bill is standing up to Putin. Opposing it is playing into Putin’s hands. History is watching.”

The US Capitol in Washington is illuminated as the Senate settled in for a rare weekend session to work on a package of wartime funding for Ukraine, Israel and other US allies (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
Congress Ukraine The US Capitol in Washington is illuminated as the Senate settled in for a rare weekend session to work on a package of wartime funding for Ukraine, Israel and other US allies (J. Scott Applewhite/AP) (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Mr Biden also lashed out at Mr Trump, who on Saturday said during a campaign appearance that he once warned he would allow Russia to do whatever it wants to Nato member nations that are “delinquent” in devoting 2% of their gross domestic product to defence.

Mr Biden added: “When America gives its word it means something. Donald Trump looks at this as if it’s a burden.”

Dollars provided by the legislation would purchase US-made defence equipment, including munitions and air defence systems that authorities say are desperately needed as Russia batters Ukraine.

It also includes eight billion dollars (£6.3 billion) for the government in Kyiv and other assistance.

“For us in Ukraine, continued US assistance helps to save human lives from Russian terror,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky posted on social media.

“It means that life will continue in our cities and will triumph over war.”

Senator John Fetterman, speaks to reporters as the Senate prepared the procedural vote on the emergency spending package (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
Congress Ukraine Senator John Fetterman, speaks to reporters as the Senate prepared the procedural vote on the emergency spending package (J. Scott Applewhite/AP) (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

In addition, the legislation would provide $14 billion for Israel’s war with Hamas, $8 billion for Taiwan and partners in the Indo-Pacific to counter China, and $9.2 billion in humanitarian assistance for Gaza.

Progressive lawmakers have objected to sending offensive weaponry to Israel, and senator Bernie Sanders, an independent of Vermont, as well as two Democrats, senators Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Peter Welch of Vermont, voted against it.

“I cannot in good conscience support sending billions of additional taxpayer dollars for Prime Minister Netanyahu’s military campaign in Gaza,” Mr Welch said.

“It’s a campaign that has killed and wounded a shocking number of civilians. It’s created a massive humanitarian crisis.”

The bill’s passage followed almost five months of torturous negotiations over an expansive bill that would have paired the foreign aid with an overhaul of border and asylum policies.