Xlera8

Senate passes Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan aid amid Trump-fueled opposition

The Senate on Tuesday passed the president’s $95 billion foreign aid spending request for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan following an all-night session, wrapping up nearly a week of debate on the bill.

The legislation, which passed in the chamber 70-29, faces an uphill battle in the House amid opposition from former President Donald Trump, the leading candidate in the Republican presidential primary. House Republicans are increasingly resistant to additional assistance for Ukraine — and foreign aid more generally.

“Today we make [Russian President] Vladimir Putin regret the day he questioned America’s resolve, and we make clear to others like China’s President Xi [Jinping] not to test our determination,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the floor after the vote. “And we send a clear, bipartisan message of resolve to our allies in NATO.”

But House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., reiterated his opposition in a statement on Monday mere hours before the Senate moved forward with its final vote.

“The mandate of national security supplemental legislation was to secure America’s own border before sending additional foreign aid around the world,” Johnson wrote in a statement. “In the absence of having received any single border policy change in the Senate, the House will have to continue to work its own will on these important matters.”

President Joe Biden’s foreign aid request stalled for two months in the Senate after Republicans held up a procedural vote in December, demanding immigration policy changes in exchange for their support. This led to two months of negotiations, only for Trump to disparage the deal after Senate Democrats agreed to immigration restrictions. Senate Republicans then backtracked on the deal and moved forward with a bill solely focused on foreign aid.

Trump also demanded Saturday on his social media network, Truth Social, that the foreign aid bill be “done as loan, not just a give away.” He said at a South Carolina rally that same day he “would encourage [Russia] to do whatever the hell they want” to NATO members who do not spend enough on defense.

The European Union earlier this month passed $54 billion in economic support for Ukraine after Hungary dropped its opposition.

The Senate bill includes another $60 billion in security and economic aid for Ukraine, $48.4 billion of which is for military support through the Pentagon.

The military support includes $19.9 billion for the Pentagon to backfill weapons sent to Ukraine through U.S. stockpiles and $13.7 billion for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, allowing the Defense Department to ink longer-term contracts to send weapons to Kyiv. There’s also $1.6 billion in foreign military financing, allowing Ukraine and European countries impacted by Russia’s invasion to use the money to buy weapons from U.S. defense contractors.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., called on the House to implement Trump’s idea of turning “the supplemental aid package into a loan instead of a grant,” though it’s unclear how that would work for the majority of military aid in the bill, which is allocated for Pentagon contracts. Graham adamantly called for a defense spending supplemental last year to circumvent the $886 billion national security spending cap in the debt ceiling deal.

The House failed to pass a stand-alone Israel aid bill last week amid opposition from Biden and Democrats unhappy with the lack of Ukraine assistance in the package.

Meanwhile, three members of the Senate Democratic caucus voted against the foreign aid package Tuesday over concerns about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the high civilian death toll amid Israel’s monthslong offensive against Hamas.

“One the one hand, I strongly support aid to Ukraine,” Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., said in a statement before voting against the bill. “On the other hand, I strongly oppose sending more offensive military aid to Israel at a time when they are using American weapons in what President Biden has called an ‘indiscriminate’ campaign of bombing.”

Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Peter Welch, D-Vt., also voted against the Senate bill.

The bill includes $10.6 billion for the Defense Department to continue providing munitions and other weapons to Israel. That amount includes $4 billion for the Iron Dome and David’s Sling air defense systems as well as $1.2 billion to procure the Iron Beam laser system to counter short-range rocket threats. There’s also another $3.5 billion in foreign military financing for Israel to buy more military equipment with cash grants.

Another $2 billion in foreign military financing from the bill would go to Taiwan and other Indo-Pacific security partners. Additionally, the bill has $1.9 billion for the Defense Department to backfill weapons sent to Taiwan from U.S. stockpiles, providing the Pentagon’s long-requested funding that will allow it to use presidential drawdown authority to quickly transfer weapons to Taipei.

The U.S. hopes to deter a possible Chinese invasion of Taiwan in the coming years by positioning as much materiel on the island as possible.

U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would get another $542 million to respond to its fiscal 2024 unfunded priorities list. Another $2.4 billion in the bill would go to U.S. Central Command to resupply munitions it used in response to the ongoing attacks from Iran-backed proxies in the Middle East since the Israel-Hamas war began in October 2023.

The bill also includes $3.3 billion to get the submarine-industrial base on course for the AUKUS agreement with Australia and Britain.

Bryant Harris is the Congress reporter for Defense News. He has covered U.S. foreign policy, national security, international affairs and politics in Washington since 2014. He has also written for Foreign Policy, Al-Monitor, Al Jazeera English and IPS News.

Chat with us

Hi there! How can I help you?