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Sweeping US Foreign Aid Package Advances in Senate


FILE - The Capitol dome is seen in Washington, Dec. 14, 2023.
FILE - The Capitol dome is seen in Washington, Dec. 14, 2023.

The U.S. Senate passed a key procedural vote in favor of advancing a sweeping U.S. $95 billion foreign aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, and putting the measure on track for passage in the Senate.

Its fate in the Republican-majority House of Representatives remains uncertain.

The Senate, which has a very slim Democratic majority, voted 67-27 to break the procedural hold placed on the bill, making it almost certain it will pass a final simple-majority vote later this week.

Ukraine would receive $61 billion to restock its depleted ammunition supplies, weapons and other crucial needs as it enters its third year of defensive war against Russia. The legislation also includes $14 billion for Israel, nearly $5 billion to support partners in the Indo-Pacific, including Taiwan, and other assistance.

It is unusual for the Senate to hold votes on the weekend, and especially when Sunday’s session is coinciding with the National Football League championship football game known as the Super Bowl.

"I can't remember the last time the Senate was in session on Super Bowl Sunday, but as I've said all week long, we're going to keep working on this bill until the job is done," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said before the vote.

"As we speak, [Russian President] Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine has rendered parts of eastern Europe a war zone, the likes of which we have not seen in those regions since the second World War," Schumer said.

"The only right answer to this threat is for the Senate to face it down unflinchingly, by passing this bill as soon as we can," he added.

Some right-wing Republican lawmakers, many of them aligned with former President Donald Trump, have voiced increasing opposition to sending more aid to Ukraine for its two-year fight against the Russian invasion, imperiling approval of the assistance even though most Democratic lawmakers are in favor, as is Democratic President Joe Biden.

Republicans have generally supported more aid for Israel’s war against Hamas militants, although many U.S. lawmakers, especially progressive Democrats, have vocally condemned Israel for the extent of its counteroffensive that Palestinian health officials say has killed more than 28,000 people in Gaza after the Hamas terror attack in October killed 1,200 in Israel.

Senate Republicans last week blocked advancing a measure that included the foreign assistance along with provisions to tighten restrictions at the U.S.-Mexico border to try to curb the flow of thousands of migrants from crossing into the United States each day. Trump opposed the border measure as not tough enough and Republican lawmakers followed his lead on the issue.

The Republican senators could still try to include some tough migration controls in the aid package although it is not certain whether they can reach agreement with Democratic lawmakers. If the Senate approves the legislation, its fate is uncertain in the House of Representatives, where Republican opposition to further Ukraine assistance appears even more pronounced.

"The failure of the United States Congress, if it occurs, not to support Ukraine, is close to criminal neglect," Biden said last week. "It is outrageous."

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said, "Without the support of the United States, and without the support of the European states, Ukraine will have not a chance to defend its own country."

Some information in this story came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.