US lawmakers approve aid to Ukraine and Israel after months of delay

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The US House of Representatives has begun voting on a $95bn package of foreign aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, in what could be a big breakthrough after months of inaction on Capitol Hill.

The package of four separate bills was expected to pass the House on Saturday afternoon with the support of both Democrats and Republicans.

The aid, which includes $60bn for Ukraine, comes at a critical time for Kyiv in its war against Russia’s invasion forces. After the failure of Ukraine’s counteroffensive last year and as US-supplied military assistance was blocked, Moscow’s troops have seized the initiative on the battlefield, exploiting Kyiv’s lack of arms and munitions.

Ukrainian commanders told the Financial Times near the frontline in the eastern Donetsk region this month that they were desperate for Congress to approve the aid package, with one saying it was a matter of “life and death” for his troops. For months, they have been rationing their ammunition against Russian forces who have had a near 10-to-1 artillery advantage.

If the bills pass the House, they will be sent to the Senate, which is expected to approve them early next week before sending them to US President Joe Biden to be signed into law. They also include a provision that could lead to the banning of the Chinese-owned social media platform TikTok from US app stores.

Saturday’s vote ends months of inaction in the House, where Republican Speaker of the House Mike Johnson refused to take up a different $95bn national security supplemental aid bill that passed the Senate in February. Johnson faced opposition from isolationist Republicans who wield outsized influence in the divided Congress.

But Johnson, an ally of Donald Trump, has faced mounting pressure to act in recent weeks, especially after Iran launched an aerial attack last weekend on Israel, Washington’s closest ally in the Middle East.

On Monday, Johnson laid out his new plan to break the Senate-approved legislation into four separate bills, in a move designed to placate the feuding factions of his own Republican party.

Yet the package has failed to win over Johnson’s critics from within his own party, especially hardline lawmakers such as Marjorie Taylor Greene, who are vehemently opposed to more aid for Ukraine. Greene has threatened to introduce a “motion to vacate”, which would trigger a vote of no confidence in the Speaker.

Johnson’s job remains in jeopardy, and if Greene were to force a no-confidence vote he would almost certainly have to be rely on Democratic support to keep the Speakership. Democrats failed to come to the rescue of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy when he faced a rebellion last year, but have signalled in recent days that they are open to bailing out Johnson should he face a similar challenge.

Earlier this year, Hakeem Jeffries, the top House Democrat, predicted there would be a “reasonable number” of House Democrats who think Johnson “should not fall”.

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