House passes $95 billion aid bill for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan

The House voted resoundingly on Saturday to approve $95 billion in foreign aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, as President Mike Johnson put his work on the line to advance the long-stalled relief package, rallying support from the Republicans and traditional Democrats.

In four consecutive votes, an overwhelming bipartisan coalition of lawmakers approved new rounds of funding for the three U.S. allies, as well as another bill intended to sweeten the deal for conservatives that could lead to a nationwide TikTok ban .

The scene in the House reflected both the broad support in Congress for continuing to help the Ukrainian military repel Russia and the extraordinary political risk Johnson took to challenge the anti-interventionist wing of his party that had sought to thwart the 'operation. to measure. Minutes before the vote on aid to Kiev, Democrats began waving small Ukrainian flags on the House floor as far-right Republicans jeered.

The legislation provides $60 billion for Kiev; $26 billion for Israel and humanitarian aid for civilians in conflict zones, including Gaza; and $8 billion for the Indo-Pacific region. The president would ask the Ukrainian government to repay $10 billion in economic assistance, a concept supported by former President Donald J. Trump, who pushed for any aid to Kiev to be in the form of a loan. But it would also allow the president to forgive those loans starting in 2026.

It also contained a measure aimed at paving the way for the sell-off of frozen Russian sovereign assets to help finance the Ukrainian war effort, and a new round of sanctions against Iran. The Senate is expected to pass the legislation as early as Tuesday and send it to President Biden's desk, concluding its tortured path through Congress.

“Our adversaries are working together to undermine our Western values ​​and diminish our democracy,” Rep. Michael McCaul, Republican of Texas and chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said Saturday as the House debated the measure. “We can't be afraid right now. We must do what is right. Evil is on the march. History calls and now is the time to act.”

“History will judge us by our actions here today,” he continued. “As we deliberate on this vote, you must ask yourself this question: 'Am I Chamberlain or Churchill?'”

The vote was 311 to 112 in favor of aid to Ukraine, with a majority of Republicans – 112 – voting against and one, Representative Dan Meuser of Pennsylvania, voting “present.” The House approved assistance to Israel by a vote of 366 to 58; and in Taiwan 385 to 34, with Representative Rashida Tlaib, Democrat of Michigan, voting “present.” The bill imposing sanctions on Iran and requiring the sale of TikTok by its Chinese owner or banning the app in the United States passed with 360 votes in favor and 58 against.

“Today, members of both parties in the House voted to advance our national security interests and send a clear message about the power of American leadership on the world stage,” Biden said. “At this critical inflection point, they came together to answer history's call, passing urgently needed national security legislation that I have fought for months.”

Minutes after the vote, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked lawmakers, mentioning Johnson by name “for the decision that keeps history on the right track.”

“Democracy and freedom will always have global significance and will never fail as long as America helps protect them,” he wrote on social media. “The vital U.S. relief bill passed by the House today will stop the war from spreading, save thousands upon thousands of lives, and help both of our nations grow stronger.”

Outside the Capitol, a jubilant crowd waved Ukrainian flags and chanted “Thank you USA” as outgoing lawmakers gave them the thumbs up and waved their own smaller flags.

For months, it was uncertain whether Congress would approve new funding for Ukraine, even as momentum shifted in Moscow's favor. That sparked a wave of anxiety in Kiev and Europe that the United States, Ukraine's main supplier of military aid, would turn its back on the young democracy.

And it has raised questions about whether the political turmoil roiling the United States has actually destroyed what has long been a strong bipartisan consensus in favor of projecting American values ​​around the world. The last time Congress approved a major tranche of funding for Ukraine was in 2022, before Republicans took control of the House.

With “America First” sentiment gripping the party's voter base, led by Trump, Republicans last year opposed another aid package for Kiev, saying the issue shouldn't even be considered unless that Biden does not accept strict anti-immigration measures. When Senate Democrats passed legislation earlier this year that combined the aid with tougher border enforcement provisions, Trump denounced it and Republicans rejected it without a second thought.

But after the Senate passed its own $95 billion emergency aid legislation for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan without any measures on immigration, Johnson began — first privately, then loudly — telling allies that he would ensure that the United States would send aid to Kiev.

Ultimately, even in the face of the threat of ouster from ultra-conservative members, he sidestepped the hard-line contingent of lawmakers that was once his political home and relied on Democrats to pass the measure. This was a remarkable turnaround for a right-wing MP who, as a rank-and-file member, has repeatedly voted against aid to Ukraine, and just a couple of months ago said he would never allow the issue to come to a vote until his party's border demands were met.

In the days leading up to the vote, Johnson began to forcefully argue that Congress's role is to help Ukraine repel the advance of an authoritarian regime. Warning that Russian forces could march through the Baltics and Poland if Ukraine fell, Johnson said he had made the decision to frontload aid to Kiev because he “would rather send bullets to Ukraine than American boys.”

“I think this is an important moment and an important opportunity to make that decision,” Johnson told reporters at the Capitol after the votes. “I think we've done our job here and I think history will judge it well.”

Johnson structured the measures, which were sent to the Senate as a single bill, to capture diverse coalitions of support without allowing opposition to any one element to defeat the whole.

“I will let every single member of the House have the opportunity to vote according to their conscience and will,” he said.

In a nod to right-wing demands, Johnson allowed a vote shortly before the foreign aid bills on a strict border control measure, but was defeated after failing to reach the two-thirds majority needed for the approval. And the speaker refused to tie the immigration bill to the foreign aid package, knowing that would effectively kill the spending plan.

His decision to push ahead with the package infuriated ultra-conservatives at his conference, who accused Johnson of reneging on his promise not to allow a vote on foreign aid without first securing broad political concessions on the southern border. That prompted two Republicans, Representatives Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Paul Gosar of Arizona, to join Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia's effort to oust Mr. Johnson from the highest office.

Greene said the Ukraine aid bill supports “a business model built on blood, murder and war in foreign countries.”

“We should finance the construction of our own weapons and ammunition, not to send them to foreign countries,” he said before his proposal to defund Kiev failed by a vote of 351-71.

Much of the funding for Ukraine is intended to replenish U.S. stockpiles after supplies are shipped to Kiev.

Since Russia's invasion in 2022, Congress has appropriated $113 billion in funding to support Ukraine's war effort. According to the Institute for Study of War, a Washington-based research group, $75 billion has been allocated directly to the country for humanitarian, financial and military support, and another $38 billion in funding related to military assistance security were spent largely in the United States.

Far-right Republican opposition to the legislation — both in the House and on the critical Rules panel — forced Johnson to rely on Democrats to get the legislation across the finish line.

“If Ukraine does not receive the support necessary to defeat Russia's outrageous attack on its sovereign territory, the legacy of this Congress will be the appeasement of a dictator, the destruction of an allied nation and a fractured Europe,” said Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro. of Connecticut, the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee. “Our credibility will fail in the eyes of our allies and our adversaries. And gone will be the America that promised to defend freedom, democracy and human rights wherever they are threatened or under attack.”

Thirty-seven liberal Democrats opposed the $26 billion aid package for Israel because the legislation placed no conditions on how Israel could use American funding, against a backdrop of dozens of civilian casualties and an impending famine in Gaza. This showed a notable dent in long-standing staunch bipartisan support for Israel in Congress, but it was a relatively small opposition bloc given that left-wing lawmakers had pressed for a broad “no” vote on the bill to send a message to Biden. about the depth of opposition within his political coalition to his support for Israeli tactics in the war.

“Sending more weapons to the Netanyahu government will make the United States even more responsible for the atrocities and the horrific humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which is now in a season of famine,” said Rep. Jonathan L. Jackson, a Democrat from Illinois.

Carl Hulse, Anni KarniAND Kayla Guo contributed reports from Washington and Marco Santora from Kiev.

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