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US House passes $95bn in aid for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan. What next?

In News, World
April 21, 2024

The United States House of Representatives has passed a $95bn legislative package providing security assistance to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan.

The long-awaited bill, which passed on Saturday, saw broad bipartisan support and could be signed into law as early as next week after it passes through the Senate and lands on President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature.

Here’s a breakdown of the package:

How much aid will go to Israel?

The foreign aid package allocates some $26.38bn for Israel, including $9.1bn for humanitarian needs.

Specifically, the allocation will see:

  • $5.2bn go to replenishing and expanding Israel’s missile and rocket defence system;
  • $3.5bn for buying advanced weapons systems and $1bn to enhance weapons production;
  • $4.4bn for other supplies and services to Israel; and
  • $9.2bn for humanitarian purposes, including in the Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank.

However, despite allocating funds for humanitarian assistance, the bill stipulates that funding for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) is prohibited. This follows Israeli unsubstantiated accusations that the agency’s staff were involved in Hamas’s October 7 attacks.

Several Western donors have since resumed funding to UNRWA, which is a lifeline for nearly two million people in Gaza.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the billions of dollars in US assistance, writing on X that it “demonstrates strong bipartisan support for Israel and defends Western civilization”.

But the Palestinian presidency condemned the bill as “an aggression against the Palestinian people” and a “dangerous escalation”.

The money would “translate into thousands of Palestinian casualties in the Gaza Strip” and the occupied West Bank, said Nabil Abu Rudeina, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

How much will go to Ukraine?

The bill provides $60.84bn to address the conflict in Ukraine, specifically:

  • $23bn to replenish US weapons, stocks, and facilities;
  • $14bn for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, a US Department of State-led funding programme that helps train Ukraine’s military and provides equipment and advisory initiatives;
  • More than $11bn will fund current US military operations in the region, enhance the capabilities of the Ukrainian military, and boost intelligence collaboration between Kyiv and Washington; and
  • $8bn in non-military assistance, including helping Ukraine’s government pay salaries.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expressed his gratitude on Saturday, saying US lawmakers moved to keep “history on the right track”.

“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,” Zelenskyy said on X.

However, reacting after the House approval, Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the new US aid package would “deepen the crisis throughout the world”.

“Military assistance to the [Ukrainian] regime is a direct sponsorship of terrorist activities,” Zakharova said on Telegram.

How much will go to the Asia Pacific?

The bill will see $8.12bn go to the Asia Pacific, including Taiwan.

Taiwanese authorities have previously highlighted delays in US weapon deliveries, such as Stinger anti-aircraft missiles.

Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense thanked the US House for its “rock solid” support for Taiwan after the bill passed.

The ministry also said it “will coordinate the relevant budget uses with the United States through existing exchange mechanisms, and work hard to strengthen combat readiness capabilities to ensure national security and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait”.

Separately, the package includes proposals that allow the US to seize frozen Russian central bank assets to rebuild Ukraine and impose sanctions on Iran, Russia, and China, as well as provisions that the China-based owner of the popular video app TikTok sell its stake within a year or face a US ban.

Who voted against the bill?

The vote in which the aid package for Israel was passed 366-58, had 37 Democrats and 21 Republicans in opposition.

​​Al Jazeera’s Patty Culhane said the Democrats who voted against the bill on Israel were very vocal in their criticism of the Israeli prime minister.

“The number might not sound like a lot … but this is really remarkable. It would be unimaginable a decade or two ago,” she said. “I believe it shows a great shift in the Democratic Party.”

Among the Democrats who voted against the bill was Representative Ilhan Omar, who has been an outspoken critic of the US’s role in the war on Gaza.

“I do not support unconditional military aid that further escalates the already horrific humanitarian situation,” she said in a statement on X.

There were deep splits in the Republican camp on the Ukraine vote, Culhane reported, coming after months of hard-right resistance over renewed US support for repelling Russia’s invasion. The vote went 311-112, with only 101 Republicans in support.

“It is very notable that 112 Republicans voted ‘no’ for different reasons,” Culhane said.

“Some believe the European Union should do more to help Ukraine, while some others said the money should be spent at home and Ukraine has no accountability on how it spends the funds.

“This package passed, but it calls into question what might happen next if Ukraine needs more funds in the future,” Culhane added.

Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene is a leading voice of the far-right flank opposed to helping Ukraine and has taken steps that threaten to remove House Speaker Mike Johnson – also a Republican – from office over the issue. Greene stopped short of doing so on Saturday, however, but called Johnson a “lame duck”.

“It’s not the perfect legislation, it’s not the legislation that we would write if Republicans were in charge of both the House, the Senate, and the White House,” Johnson told reporters on Friday. “This is the best possible product that we can get under these circumstances to take care of these really important obligations.”

Johnson was installed last October by the same hardline Republicans who had Kevin McCarthy in response to a deal with Democrats that averted a partial government shutdown.

What next?

The legislation now proceeds to the slight-majority Democrat Senate, which passed a similar measure more than two months ago. The Senate proceedings are expected to begin on Tuesday and President Biden has previously promised to sign the bill swiftly.

“I urge the Senate to quickly send this package to my desk so that I can sign it into law and we can quickly send weapons and equipment to Ukraine to meet their urgent battlefield needs,” the president said.

Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, as he prepared to overcome strong objections from his right flank next week, said: “The task before us is urgent. It is once again the Senate’s turn to make history.”

Chuck Schumer, leader of the Democratic majority in the Senate, confirmed the vote would begin on Tuesday. “Our allies across the world have been waiting for this moment,” he said.

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