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20 Apr, 2024 17:56

US House approves Ukraine aid bill

Lawmakers have authorized $61 billion to support Kiev in its conflict with Russia
US House approves Ukraine aid bill

US lawmakers have passed an emergency bill granting more weapons and money to Ukraine. The bill, which grants Kiev a $61 billion war chest, had been stalled since last fall over concern that Washington was merely prolonging the conflict with Russia without offering a strategy for victory or a peace settlement.

The Ukraine, Israel and Indo-Pacific bills will be combined into a $95 billion emergency spending package to enable quick passage by the Senate and final approval by Biden. 

Members of Congress cheered and waved Ukrainian flags as the votes were being counted, prompting an admonishment by House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana). Johnson had blocked the legislation since last fall, given that most members of his party oppose prolonging the Ukraine conflict. Passed by a margin of 311-112 on Saturday, all Democrats and 101 Republicans voted in favor of the move.

Asked on Thursday why he had dropped his opposition to the bill, putting himself at risk of being ousted as House speaker, Johnson told reporters, “History judges us for what we do. This is a critical time right now – a critical time on the world stage.” He tried to blunt opposition by labeling some of the Ukraine aid as loans. 

Biden’s administration ran out of Ukraine funding earlier this year, after burning through $113 billion in previously approved aid packages. With weapons shipments from its biggest benefactor disrupted, Kiev has suffered ammunition shortages in recent months.

Biden has blamed Republican lawmakers for battlefield defeats -- including the fall of Avdeevka, a key Ukrainian stronghold, in February – saying “congressional inaction” led to “notable gains” by Russian forces. 

The House also voted on Saturday to approve separate bills providing $26 billion in aid to Israel and $8 billion for Taiwan and other Indo-Pacific region allies. In addition, the emergency spending package includes $9 billion in humanitarian aid for civilians in Gaza and other war zones.  

Representative Al Green (D-Texas) told reporters that lawmakers were coming together in a bipartisan way to overcome “pro-Putin obstructionists,” suggesting that only agents of Russian President Vladimir Putin oppose funding the Ukraine conflict. 

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia), who has called for Johnson to be replaced as speaker, called Saturday’s vote “despicable.” She added, “We should be demanding peace, not funding the military industrial complex’s blood-money wars, fueled by dead bodies in Ukraine.”

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