17 Apr 2024, 23:43

House Republicans finally announce vote for $61 bn in Ukraine aid

WASHINGTON, April  17, 2024 (BSS/AFP) - The Republican leader in the House 
of Representatives announced Wednesday a vote on a massive new military aid 
package that includes some $61 billion in long-delayed support for Ukraine, as 
well as billions for Israel and Taiwan.

       The move could finally get much-needed help to outgunned Ukrainian forces 
as they battle Russian invaders.

       But it also sets up a showdown with Johnson's own far-right wing, which for 
months has been steered by Donald Trump into blocking aid to Ukraine.

       "We expect the vote on final passage on these bills to be on Saturday 
evening," Speaker Mike Johnson announced.

       Along with the $61 billion for Ukraine, the bills allocate more than $26 
billion for Israel as it wages war against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip 
and squares up against regional foe Iran and its proxies.

       They also include $8 billion for self-ruled Taiwan, which China sees as 
part of its territory and has vowed to retake -- by force if necessary.

       For months Johnson has faced huge pressure from the White House and much of 
Congress to allow the lower house to vote on aid to Ukraine and Israel that was 
already approved in the Senate.

       Johnson had refused to allow a vote on that $95 billion package in the 

       Instead he is pushing this separate package -- which the White House has 
appeared to give the cautious nod to, even as Biden has said he needs to study 
it more closely. 

       It remains unclear if Johnson's aid bills would pass the House or the 
Democratically controlled Senate. 

       The speaker's majority is razor-thin, and he is facing a potential 
Republican revolt over his complex plan, as conservatives complain over the 
billions in aid already spent.

       And loyalists to Trump -- who has forcefully opposed more direct aid to 
Ukraine, complaining about the billions that have already been sent since the 
fighting began in February 2022 -- hold the balance of power in the House.

       Without the near-total backing of his party, Johnson would be left to rely 
on Democratic votes to pass the aid bills.

       That would infuriate his own party's hard-right faction, some of whom have 
already spoken out against the new package -- forcing Johnson to insist on 
Tuesday that he would not resign. 
       - Investing in America -
       The announcement by Johnson came shortly after Biden described Ukraine and 
Israel as two US allies desperate for help in their conflicts.

       They both "depend on American assistance, including weaponry, to do it. And 
this is a pivotal moment," Biden wrote in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal.

       Biden called the Senate-approved version of the Ukraine and Israel aid 
package "strong and sensible."

       "It shouldn't be held hostage any longer by a small group of extreme 
Republican House members," he said.

       Biden argued in the Journal that the aid is needed to help Ukraine, which 
is running out of ammunition, and Israel in the wake of last weekend's mass 
Iranian drone attack.

       But he said the assistance is just as important for US security.

       "Mr Putin wants to subjugate the people of Ukraine and absorb their nation 
into a new Russian empire. The government of Iran wants to destroy Israel 
forever -- wiping the world's only Jewish state off the map," Biden wrote.

       "America must never accept either outcome -- not only because we stand up 
for our friends, but because our security is on the line, too."

       Biden said the money would not be "blank checks."

       The weaponry for Ukraine would be built in US factories, he said.

       "We'd be investing in America's industrial base, buying American products 
made by American workers, supporting jobs in nearly 40 states, and 
strengthening our own national security. We'd help our friends while helping 
ourselves," Biden said.

       He also sought to allay concerns about the aid to Israel within his own 
Democratic party, where growing numbers of members oppose arming Israel during 
its devastating war against Hamas in civilian-packed Gaza.

       Biden praised the Senate bill's inclusion of funding to "continue 
delivering urgent humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza."


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