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The US Senate has approved a $95 billion national security funding bill, including new aid to Ukraine, but the bill risks stalling in the House of Representatives due to opposition from Donald Trump.
The bill’s final vote in the Senate follows weeks of pressure from the Biden administration and a growing divide among Republican senators over the merits of more aid to Ukraine, alongside the issue broader role of America in the world.
A total of 70 senators supported the bill — which includes aid to Israel, Gaza and Taiwan — in the final vote Tuesday, while 29 opposed it.
Supporters of the aid package — including the White House, most Democrats and mainstream Republicans — have argued that abandoning Ukraine could lead to Russian gains on the battlefield and encourage China to invade Taiwan.
US President Joe Biden issued a statement on Tuesday calling on the Republican-controlled House to “act with urgency on this issue.” Biden cannot pass the bill unless it passes both houses of Congress.
“Some say American leadership and our alliances and partnerships with countries around the world don’t matter. They do. If we do not stand up to tyrants who seek to conquer or divide the territory of their neighbors, the consequences for American national security will be significant,” Biden said.
But Mike Johnson, the House speaker close to Trump, threw cold water on the bill’s prospects Monday night, saying the Lower House would “act on its own will” and that “America deserves better than the status quo of the Senate. .
The standoff at the Capitol highlighted how Trump, the front-runner for the Republican nomination in this year’s presidential election, has tightened his grip on the party in the foreign policy arena.
Last weekend, Trump suggested at a campaign rally in South Carolina that he would allow Russia to do “whatever it wants” to NATO allies if they fail to increase their defense spending. This sparked a backlash within the transatlantic alliance, but most Republicans refused to criticize it.
Trump’s influence over the Republican Party has extended to some lawmakers known as national security hawks but who are now reluctant to approve a large foreign security aid package.
Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator from South Carolina, instead adopted a proposal floated on social media by Trump to provide loans rather than grants to his allies, including Ukraine.
“A soft loan gives America, which is deeply in debt, a chance to get its money back and changes the paradigm of how we help others. President Trump is right to insist that we think outside the box,” Graham said.
Republicans have long insisted that senators include provisions to strengthen immigration policy at the southern border with Mexico in any foreign aid package. But after such a deal was negotiated, they balked at compromise because the former president opposed it.
The senators then returned to the current version of the bill, which does not include any border measures.
JD Vance, the Republican senator from Ohio who has become a leading critic of aid to Ukraine, delivered a speech castigating the US foreign policy establishment for leading America’s military involvement in Vietnam and the Middle East over the past 60 years.
“Now these experts are embarking on a new crusade. Now these experts have a new thing that American taxpayers must fund and must fund indefinitely. And it’s called the Ukraine conflict,” Vance said.
But the White House, many congressional Democrats and some remaining Republican supporters of aid to Ukraine have been outraged by the way the legislation has been blocked so far, and hope that pressure will intensify on the House to pass the bill.
“I hope to speak directly to President Johnson, and my message is that this is a rare moment where history looks at the United States and sees whether we will stand up for our values, stand up to tyrants like Putin and do what it must,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday.
“I will tell Speaker Johnson that I am confident that there is a large majority in the House that will vote for this bill.”
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