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Ukraine-Russia Conflict: US Congress Nears Approval of Long-Awaited Aid

Following several months of postponement, the House of Representatives is anticipated to cast votes on allocating tens of billions of dollars in US military aid for Ukraine and Israel. These proposals have faced opposition within Congress, relying on a delicate bipartisan coalition to overcome legislative obstacles.

A procedural vote on Thursday suggested that the measures will likely be approved. The debate is scheduled to commence, and voting is expected to take place on Saturday. House Speaker Mike Johnson expresses his determination to advance these measures, even if it potentially threatens his position.

The Ukraine vote is being closely monitored in Kyiv, as the city has expressed the immediate necessity for additional assistance from its allies due to Russia’s continuous advancements on the battlefield. In the event that the House approves the bills, the Senate might endorse the package by this weekend. President Joe Biden has committed to signing it into law.

What’s in the aid bills?

Mr. Johnson’s foreign aid proposal allocates $60.8 billion (£49 billion) to Ukraine, $26.4 billion to Israel, and $8.1 billion to the Indo-Pacific region, including Taiwan. The House of Representatives will separately vote on each component, potentially resulting in varying approvals.

In addition, the Speaker is presenting a fourth legislative piece for voting, which involves compelling Chinese company ByteDance to divest from TikTok, authorizing the sale of frozen Russian assets, and imposing new sanctions on Russia, Iran, and China.

Whatever gets approved will be combined into a single bill that must be endorsed collectively by the Senate before reaching the president’s desk. Mr. Johnson also intends to introduce an immigration reform bill containing provisions preferred by conservative Republicans to garner their support for the aid package. However, the border bill’s chances of passing seem slim, as it requires the support of two-thirds of the House, under a separate process.

Why have they been held up?

Recent surveys indicate that an increasing number of Republicans are against providing additional aid to Ukraine, while some liberals are opposed to military support for Israel. Although these opinions did not hinder the US Senate from approving legislation that supported both nations in February, the situation has been different in the House of Representatives.

Speaker Johnson, who has a narrow majority in the chamber, has faced threats from conservative members who would push for his removal if he supports new aid for Ukraine. The initiative, spearheaded by Georgia congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, has garnered support from two other representatives: Thomas Massie from Kentucky and Paul Gosar from Arizona.

Previously, the Speaker had been hesitant to confront his right-wing critics. However, he recently changed course, stating his goal is to “do the right thing and let the chips fall where they may.” Meanwhile, left-wing Democrats who object to Israel’s conduct in the Gaza war have vowed not to allow the US to be complicit in a human rights disaster. The Israel aid bill includes $9 billion in humanitarian aid, which might help persuade some reluctant Democrats.

By allowing separate votes on aid for Israel and Ukraine, Speaker Johnson aims to enable individual legislators to vote against disliked provisions without jeopardizing the entire initiative.

What’s at stake?

Officials from the Biden administration have expressed concerns about the critical state of affairs in Ukraine. The country’s military faces a shortage of ammunition and is experiencing low morale as the Russian army advances.

CIA Director William Burns, during a speech in Texas, warned that there is a significant possibility that Ukraine might lose on the battlefield by the end of 2024 or at least put Russian President Vladimir Putin in a position to largely determine the terms of a political resolution.

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