US Senate passes $95 billion foreign aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan

US Senate passes $95 billion foreign aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan

The US Senate has passed $95 billion (£76.2 billion) in military aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, after months of delays and debate over how involved America should be in foreign conflicts.

The bill passed the Senate in an overwhelming 79-18 vote late on Tuesday after the House had approved the package on Saturday.

President Joe Biden confirmed immediately after passage that he will sign it on Wednesday and start the process of sending weapons to Ukraine, which has been struggling to hold its front lines against Russia.

"Tonight, a bipartisan majority in the Senate joined the House to answer history's call at this critical inflection point," Biden said.

The legislation would also send $26 billion in wartime assistance to Israel and humanitarian relief to citizens of Gaza, as well as $8 billion to counter Chinese threats in Taiwan and the Indo-Pacific.

US officials said about $1 billion of the aid could be on its way shortly, with the bulk following in coming weeks.

In an interview with The Associated Press shortly before the vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that if Congress hadn't passed the aid, "America would have paid a price economically, politically, militarily".

"Very few things we have done have risen to this level of historic importance," he said.

On the Senate floor, Schumer said the Senate was sending a message to US allies: "We will stand with you."

Schumer and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made passing the legislation a top priority, arguing there could be dire consequences for the United States and many of its global allies if Russian President Vladimir Putin's aggression is left unchecked.

They worked with House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Republican, to overcome seemingly intractable Republican opposition to the Ukraine aid, eventually winning large majorities in both chambers.

In the end, 31 Republicans voted for the aid package — nine more than when the Senate passed a similar version in February, and a majority of the Senate GOP conference.

The House approved the package in a series of four votes on Saturday, with the Ukraine portion passing 311-112.

The $61 billion for Ukraine comes as the war-torn country desperately needs new firepower and as Putin has stepped up his attacks.

Ukrainian soldiers have struggled as Russia has seized the momentum on the battlefield and gained significant territory.

Biden told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday the US will send badly needed air defence weaponry as soon as the legislation is passed.

"The President has assured me that the package will be approved quickly and that it will be powerful, strengthening our air defence as well as long-range and artillery capabilities," Zelensky said in a post on X on Monday.

In an effort to gain more votes, Republicans in the House majority also added a bill to the foreign aid package that could ban TikTok in the US if its Chinese owners do not sell their stake within a year.

The TikTok bill was one of several tweaks Johnson made to the package the Senate passed in February.

The package has had broad congressional support since Biden first requested the money last summer.

But congressional leaders had to navigate strong opposition from a growing number of conservatives who question US involvement in foreign wars and argue that Congress should be focused instead on the surge of migration at the US-Mexico border.

Opponents in the Senate, like the House, included some left-wing senators who are opposed to aiding Israel as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has bombarded Gaza and killed thousands of civilians.

Senator Bernie Sanders voted against the package commenting "we must end our complicity in this terrible war".