House Approves $95 Billion Aid Bill for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan

Equipo
By Equipo
13 Min Read

The House voted resoundingly on Saturday to approve $95 billion in foreign aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, as Speaker Mike Johnson put his job on the line to advance the long-stalled aid package by marshaling support from mainstream Republicans and Democrats.

In four back-to-back votes, overwhelming bipartisan coalitions of lawmakers approved fresh rounds of funding for the three U.S. allies, as well as another bill meant to sweeten the deal for conservatives that could result in a nationwide ban of TikTok.

The scene on the House floor reflected both the broad support in Congress for continuing to help the Ukrainian military beat back Russia, and the extraordinary political risk taken by Mr. Johnson to defy the anti-interventionist wing of his party who had sought to thwart the measure. Minutes before the vote on assistance for Kyiv, Democrats began to wave small Ukrainian flags on the House floor, as hard-right Republicans jeered.

The legislation includes $60 billion for Kyiv; $26 billion for Israel and humanitarian aid for civilians in conflict zones, including Gaza; and $8 billion for the Indo-Pacific region. It would direct the president to seek repayment from the Ukrainian government of $10 billion in economic assistance, a concept supported by former President Donald J. Trump, who had pushed for any aid to Kyiv to be in the form of a loan. But it also would allow the president to forgive those loans starting in 2026.

It also contained a measure to help pave the way to selling off frozen Russian sovereign assets to help fund the Ukrainian war effort, and a new round of sanctions on Iran. The Senate is expected to pass the legislation as early as Tuesday and send it to President Biden’s desk, capping its tortured journey through Congress.

“Our adversaries are working together to undermine our Western values and demean our democracy,” Representative Michael McCaul, Republican of Texas and the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said Saturday as the House debated the measure. “We cannot be afraid at this moment. We have to do what’s right. Evil is on the march. History is calling and now is the time to act.”

“History will judge us by our actions here today,” he continued. “As we deliberate on this vote, you have to ask yourself this question: ‘Am I Chamberlain or Churchill?’”

The vote was 311 to 112 in favor of the aid to Ukraine, with a majority of Republicans — 112 — voting against it and one, Representative Dan Meuser of Pennsylvania, voting “present.” The House approved assistance to Israel 366 to 58; and to Taiwan 385 to 34, with Representative Rashida Tlaib, Democrat of Michigan, voting “present.” The bill to impose sanctions on Iran and require the sale of TikTok by its Chinese owner or ban the app in the United States passed 360 to 58.

“Today, members of both parties in the House voted to advance our national security interests and send a clear message about the power of American leadership on the world stage,” Mr. Biden said. “At this critical inflection point, they came together to answer history’s call, passing urgently needed national security legislation that I have fought for months to secure.”

Minutes after the vote, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine thanked lawmakers, singling out Mr. Johnson by name “for the decision that keeps history on the right track.”

“Democracy and freedom will always have global significance and will never fail as long as America helps to protect it,” he wrote on social media. “The vital U.S. aid bill passed today by the House will keep the war from expanding, save thousands and thousands of lives, and help both of our nations to become stronger.”

Outside the Capitol, a jubilant crowd waved Ukrainian flags and chanted, “Thank you U.S.A.” as exiting lawmakers gave them a thumbs-up and waved smaller flags of their own.

For months, it had been uncertain whether Congress would approve new funding for Ukraine, even as momentum shifted in Moscow’s favor. That prompted a wave of anxiety in Kyiv and in Europe that the United States, the single biggest provider of military aid to Ukraine, would turn its back on the young democracy.

And it raised questions about whether the political turmoil that has roiled the United States had effectively destroyed what has long been a strong bipartisan consensus in favor of projecting American values around the world. The last time the Congress approved a major tranche of funding to Ukraine was in 2022, before Republicans took control of the House.

With an “America First” sentiment gripping the party’s voter base, led by Mr. Trump, Republicans dug in last year against another aid package for Kyiv, saying the matter should not even be considered unless Mr. Biden agreed to stringent anti-immigration measures. When Senate Democrats agreed earlier this year to legislation that paired the aid with stiffer border enforcement provisions, Mr. Trump denounced it and Republicans rejected it out of hand.

But after the Senate passed its own $95 billion emergency aid legislation for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan without any immigration measures, Mr. Johnson began — first privately, then loudly — telling allies that he would ensure the U.S. would send aid to Kyiv.

In the end, even in the face of an ouster threat from ultraconservative members, he circumvented the hard-line contingent of lawmakers that once was his political home and relied on Democrats to push the measure through. It was a remarkable turnabout for a right-wing lawmaker who voted repeatedly against aid to Ukraine as a rank-and-file member, and as recently as a couple of months ago declared he would never allow the matter to come to a vote until his party’s border demands were met.

In the days leading up to the vote, Mr. Johnson began forcefully making the case that it was Congress’s role to help Ukraine fend off the advances of an authoritarian. Warning that Russian forces could march through the Baltics and Poland if Ukraine falls, Mr. Johnson said he had made the decision to advance aid to Kyiv because he “would rather send bullets to Ukraine than American boys.”

“I think this is an important moment and important opportunity to make that decision,” Mr. Johnson told reporters at the Capitol after the votes. “I think we did our work here and I think history will judge it well.”

Mr. Johnson structured the measures, which were sent to the Senate as one bill, to capture different coalitions of support without allowing opposition to any one element to defeat the whole thing.

“I’m going to allow an opportunity for every single member of the House to vote their conscience and their will,” he had said.

In a nod to right-wing demands, Mr. Johnson allowed a vote just before the foreign aid bills on a stringent border enforcement measure, but it was defeated after failing to reach the two-thirds majority needed for passage. And the speaker refused to link the immigration bill to the foreign aid package, knowing that would effectively kill the spending plan.

His decision to advance the package infuriated the ultraconservatives in his conference who accused Mr. Johnson of reneging on his promise not to allow a vote on foreign aid without first securing sweeping policy concessions on the southern border. It prompted two Republicans, Representatives Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Paul Gosar of Arizona to join a bid by Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia to oust Mr. Johnson from the top job.

Ms. Greene claimed the Ukraine aid bill supported “a business model built on blood and murder and war in foreign countries.”

“We should be funding to build up our weapons and ammunition, not to send it over to foreign countries,” she said before her proposal to zero out the money for Kyiv failed on a vote of 351 to 71.

Much of the funding for Ukraine is earmarked to replenish U.S. stockpiles after shipping supplies to Kyiv.

Since Russia’s invasion in 2022, Congress has appropriated $113 billion in funding to support Ukraine’s war effort. $75 billion was directly allocated to the country for humanitarian, financial and military support, and another $38 billion in security assistance-related funding was spent largely in the United States, according to the Institute for Study of War, a Washington-based research group.

Hard-right Republican opposition to the legislation — both on the House floor and in the critical Rules panel — forced Mr. Johnson to rely on Democrats to push the legislation across the finish line.

“If Ukraine does not receive this support that it requires to defeat Russia’s outrageous assault on its sovereign territory, the legacy of this Congress will be the appeasement of a dictator, the destruction of an allied nation and a fractured Europe,” said Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee. “Gone will be our credibility, in the eyes of our allies and of our adversaries. And gone will be the America that promised to stand up for freedom, democracy, and human rights, wherever they are threatened or wherever they are under attack.”

Thirty-seven liberal Democrats opposed the $26 billion aid package for Israel because the legislation placed no conditions on how Israel could use American funding, amid scores of civilian casualties and an imminent famine in Gaza. That showed a notable dent in the longstanding ironclad bipartisan backing for Israel in Congress, but was a relatively small bloc of opposition given that left-wing lawmakers had pressed for a large “no” vote on the bill to send a message to Mr. Biden about the depth of opposition within his political coalition to his backing for Israel’s tactics in the war.

“Sending more weapons to the Netanyahu government will make the U.S. even more responsible for atrocities and the horrific humanitarian crisis in Gaza which is now in a season of famine,” said Representative Jonathan L. Jackson, Democrat of Illinois.

Carl Hulse, Annie Karni, and Kayla Guo contributed reporting from Washington and Marc Santora from Kyiv.

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