House of Representatives moves closer to vote on aid to Ukraine and Israel

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The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote Saturday evening on sending additional aid to Ukraine and Israel, a move that could provide $95 billion in critical support to those countries and end months of inaction of Congress.

Mike Johnson, the Republican speaker of the House and Donald Trump ally, told party colleagues on Wednesday that he would release one of three bills providing additional military funding for Israel, Taiwan and Ukraine.

President Joe Biden said in a statement Wednesday that he “strongly” supports the package and urged the House and Senate to support it. “I will immediately sign this law to send a message to the world: we stand with our friends and we will not let Iran or Russia succeed.”

House members will have 72 hours to study the bill, paving the way for a final vote on the three measures Saturday evening, which will be closely watched by U.S. allies in Europe.

Johnson’s gamble comes at a critical time for Ukraine in its war against Russia, and follows months of lobbying by U.S. allies who have warned that the country’s defenses could be overwhelmed by heavy firepower. much superior Russia without new military aid from Washington.

But the decision to put the bill before the House carries considerable political risk for Johnson. Right-wing opponents within his party have vowed to expel him as president if he allows a vote on aid, and Johnson is expected to need Democratic support to pass the funding — and to remain president.

Momentum to reintroduce aid programs accelerated after the Iranian attack on Israel over the weekend, with Biden calling it a “brazen” and “unprecedented” attack on one of the country’s most powerful allies. closer to the United States in the Middle East.

The possible breakthrough in U.S. funding for its allies follows months of inaction by the Republican-controlled House, which refused to accept an approved $95 billion supplemental national security aid package by the Senate, which included $60 billion in funding for Ukraine, as well as billions of dollars. dollars for Israel and Taiwan.

U.S. allies in Europe have been alarmed by the impasse in Congress over increased support for Ukraine, where Russian forces have threatened to gain more territory two years after President Vladimir Putin launched an invasion to large scale.

The Russian army has intensified its bombing of Ukraine in recent weeks, fearing a weakening of Ukrainian air defense.

Passage of the bill would unlock critical weapons and munitions that could help Ukraine better defend its cities against Russian missiles and drones that have targeted critical infrastructure in recent weeks. President Volodymyr Zelensky said this week that the kyiv region’s largest power plant had been destroyed in a Russian attack because its air defense forces had run out of missiles.

Approval of the bill could also help Ukraine’s beleaguered army halt Russia’s ground offensive and give kyiv’s weary troops time to regroup.

Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief Oleksandr Syrsky said late Saturday that the situation on the battlefield had “significantly deteriorated” in recent days as Russian soldiers overran kyiv’s forces to conquer more territory.

And Ukrainian commanders on the front lines told the Financial Times that they were badly outmatched by Russian forces, with their enemy firing five to seven artillery shells for every one of their own.

“We are actively working with the United States to obtain an appropriate decision from Congress on the American support plan,” Zelensky told European leaders in a video message during a summit in Brussels on Wednesday evening. “And I ask each of you to engage in communication with our American partners so that their support comes to fruition.”

While the EU has worked to put in place interim military financing programs in recent months, European diplomats admit they do not have the defense and manufacturing capabilities to replace those of the United States.

The freezing of funding flows has also spooked some European capitals, which fear it could be a harbinger of U.S. policy toward Ukraine under a potential Trump presidency, should he regain control of the White House during the November elections.

“Ukraine has an urgent need,” Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda said on Wednesday. “We must celebrate the moment of delivery of our weapons, not the moment of decision-making. Because sometimes the time between decision-making and implementation is a few months or even more.”

Johnson’s plan, unveiled Monday, splits the aid into three separate bills, including a $60.8 billion Ukraine aid bill, a $26.4 billion measure in support to Israel and an $8.1 billion program to send aid to Taiwan and other Indo-Pacific countries. intended to deter Chinese aggression.

Johnson said he would also release a draft fourth bill that would seize Russian assets, impose additional sanctions on Russia, China and Iran and ban TikTok from U.S. app stores unless its Chinese owner does not sell the video sharing platform. A fifth bill would aim to strengthen security at the U.S.-Mexico border.

But passage of these bills is not guaranteed, given the Republican Party’s slim majority in the House.

Johnson’s leadership is on shaky ground after Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Thomas Massie, a Kentucky Republican, threatened a vote of no confidence in the president.

Johnson vowed to keep fighting, telling reporters he considered himself a “war president,” adding: “I didn’t expect it to be an easy path.” »

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