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House passes Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan aid, potential TikTok ban

In Business
April 20, 2024

On Saturday, the House passed a series of bills to provide aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan, along with a package that included forcing the Chinese company ByteDance to sell TikTok.

After a morning of debate on the House floor, the four bills will be wrapped into a single package and sent to the Senate for approval. After that, it will be sent to President Joe Biden to be signed into law.

“I understand that it is not a perfect piece of legislation,” House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., said Saturday following the vote. “We would rather send bullets to the conflict overseas than our own boys, our troops. And I think this is an important moment and important opportunity to make that decision.”

Johnson’s decision to hold the vote came at a political risk, as hardline members of his party threatened to oust him. In March, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., filed a motion to vacate Johnson from his post, but she has yet to force a vote on the measure.

“As I’ve said many times, I don’t walk around this building being worried about a motion to vacate,” Johnson said Saturday. “I have to do my job.”

Following the passage of the long-stalled foreign aid, Johnson received a flurry of public statements thanking him.

 “I want to thank Speaker Johnson, Leader Jeffries, and the bipartisan coalition of lawmakers in the House who voted to put our national security first,” Biden said in a statement. “I urge the Senate to quickly send this package to my desk so that I can sign it into law.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., signaled Saturday that the Senate could vote on the package on Tuesday.

“I am grateful to the United States House of Representatives, both parties and personally Speaker Mike Johnson for the decision that keeps history on the right track,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a post on X after the vote.

Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister Israel Katz also thanked Johnson and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., on Saturday for helping to pass the aid.

The bills earmark over $60 billion for Ukraine aid, more than $26 billion for Israel and over $8 billion for Taiwan and Indo-Pacific security. A fourth bill includes a measure to force China’s ByteDance to sell social media platform TikTok within nine months — though the president can offer a 90-day extension — or face a national ban.

“It is unfortunate that the House of Representatives is using the cover of important foreign and humanitarian assistance to once again jam through a ban bill,” a TikTok spokesperson said in a statement on Saturday.

The House’s approval is a critical next step for foreign aid, which has been in limbo since President Biden first proposed it in October. After the long-awaited vote on Ukraine passed, a crowd of House Democrats waving Ukrainian flags broke out into a chorus of cheers.

In February, the Senate passed a $95 billion version of the aid to fund Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. Still, the House effectively shelved that bill primarily due to political threats from hardline House Republicans like Rep. Greene.

Despite that looming political backlash, Speaker Johnson was persuaded to revisit the foreign aid package after Iran’s attempted strike on Israel last weekend. That escalatory move triggered a renewed bipartisan push for the House to move to support Israel.

In response, Johnson put the foreign aid package at the top of the House’s agenda. He devised a plan to structure the foreign aid in separate bills, which he presented to his Republican colleagues on Monday evening.

After that meeting, Greene expressed her discontent with Johnson’s proposed foreign aid bills but reiterated that she had not yet decided whether she would force a vote to oust him.

“I think it’s another wrong direction for Speaker Johnson in our conference,” she said Monday.

Greene’s motion to vacate loomed over Saturday’s vote. Walking into the House chamber, Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., told NBC News he was not expecting Greene to force a vote on the motion on Saturday.

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