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Foreign Aid to Senate for Final OK     04/23 06:19

   The Senate is returning 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 
contentious internal debate over how involved the United States should be 
abroad.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Senate is returning 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 contentious internal debate over how involved the United States 
should be abroad.

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

   Bidentold Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday the U.S. will 
soon send badly needed air defense weaponry. The House approved the package 
Saturday in a series of four votes, 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, strengthening our air defense as well as long-range 
and artillery capabilities," Zelenskyy said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

   The legislation also would send $26 billion in wartime assistance to Israel 
and humanitarian relief to citizens of Gaza, and $8 billion to counter China in 
Taiwan and the Indo-Pacific. In an effort to gain more votes, Republicans in 
the House majority also added a bill to the package that could ban the social 
media app TikTok in the U.S. if its Chinese owners do not 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 stipulation that $9 billion of the economic assistance to 
Ukraine is in the form of "forgivable loans."

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

   The growing fault line in the GOP between those conservatives who are 
skeptical of the aid and the more traditional, "Reagan-era" Republicans who 
strongly support it may prove to be career-defining for the two top Republican 
leaders. Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, who has made the Ukraine aid a top 
priority, said last month that he would step down from leadership after 
becoming increasingly distanced from many in his conference on the issue and 
others. House Speaker Mike Johnson, who put the bills on the floor after 
praying for guidance, faces threats of an ouster after a majority of 
Republicans voted against them.

   McConnell has made clear that stopping Putin is important enough for him to 
stake his political capital.

   "The national security of the United States depends on the willingness of 
its leaders to build, sustain, and exercise hard power," McConnell said after 
House passage Saturday, adding, "I make no apology for taking these linked 
threats seriously or for urging the Biden administration and my colleagues in 
Congress to do the same."

   Johnson said after House passage that "we did our work here, and I think 
history will judge it well."

   The Senate could pass the aid package, now combined back into one bill, as 
soon as Tuesday afternoon if senators are able to agree on the timing for a 
vote. If Republicans who oppose the legislation decide to protest and draw out 
the process, final votes would likely be Wednesday.

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

   South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a longtime GOP hawk who voted against it 
in February because it wasn't paired with legislation to stem 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 safer if we pull the plug on our 
friends and allies overseas 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. Those include proposals 
that allow the U.S. to seize frozen Russian central bank assets 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 the 
owner, ByteDance Ltd., doesn't sell. That bill has wide bipartisan support in 
the House and Senate.

   Opponents in the Senate, like the House, are likely to include some 
left-wing senators who are opposed to aiding Israel as Prime Minister Benjamin 
Netanyahu has bombarded Gaza and killed 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 $10 billion more in unrestricted military aid 
for his horrific war against the Palestinian people," Sanders said on X just 
before that vote. "That is unconscionable."

 
 
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