Friday, May 24, 2024

US Senate passes Ukraine, Israel funding after months-long stalemate

The US Senate on Tuesday passed a package to provide billions in aid to Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan, sending the legislation to President Joe Biden’s desk to become law after a rocky six months of political battles.

The final tally was 79-18, a rousing show of bipartisanship in an era of deep political divisions.

“The relentless work of six long months has paid off,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., stated on the Senate floor following an earlier procedural vote.

Now that the bill has passed, it goes to Biden, who said he would sign it into law Wednesday, after the House passed the package as four separate bills on Saturday.

The bill will “strengthen our national security and send a message to the world about the power of American leadership: we stand resolutely for democracy and freedom, and against tyranny and oppression”, Biden said in a statement Tuesday night.

The funding includes roughly $60 billion for Ukraine aid, $26 billion for Israel and $8 billion for Taiwan and Indo-Pacific security.

Spending-wise, the legislation is similar to the $95 billion foreign aid bill passed by the Senate in February, which has been effectively shelved in the House in the weeks since.

But this bill also contains several other foreign policy proposals, including a measure to force Chinese TikTok parent company ByteDance to sell the social media platform or else face a national ban of the app. The provision would give ByteDance nine months to sell, though Biden could extend that timeline to a year.

A source within the company said TikTok would pursue a “legal challenge” if the bill was signed into law, according to an internal memo obtained by NBC News.

“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 that would trample the free speech rights of 170 million Americans,” a TikTok spokesperson stated Saturday following the House’s passage of the bill.

So far this year, TikTok and ByteDance have jointly spent over $7 million on lobbying and advertisements to prevent Congress from passing the legislation to force the sale, according to disclosure reports.

The foreign aid package has also been the subject of deep GOP infighting, a major reason that the legislation has been deadlocked on Capitol Hill since Biden first proposed it in October.

House Republicans like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., have threatened to oust House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., in part for passing this foreign aid, calling it a “total betrayal” on X. In March, she filed a motion to vacate the speaker but has yet to follow through on forcing a vote.

Those political threats, along with an increasingly razor-thin House Republican majority, led Johnson to effectively table the Senate’s $95 billion foreign aid bill for weeks.

But Johnson decided to end the stalemate on the foreign aid last week following Iran’s attack on April 13, after which the speaker faced renewed bipartisan pressure to move on the funding.

And despite Greene’s threats, Johnson’s job has some insurance from former President Donald Trump’s public support.

“Look, we have a majority of one, okay? It’s not like he can go and do whatever he wants to do. I think he’s a very good person,” Trump said in a radio interview on “The John Fredericks Show” on Monday evening.

“I think he’s trying very hard.”

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