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After Months of Delay, US Congress Passes Ukraine Aid Legislation

Late on Tuesday, a comprehensive foreign aid package sailed through the U.S. Congress, ending months of delay and paving the path for significant funding to Ukraine amidst Russia’s ongoing invasion and Kyiv’s pressing need for military resources.

The Senate overwhelmingly approved four bills passed by the House of Representatives on Saturday, with a vote of 79 to 18. This approval came after House Republican leaders changed course abruptly last week, permitting a vote on the $95 billion aid package. The aid primarily targets Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan, and U.S. allies in the Indo-Pacific region, focusing largely on military assistance.

The four bills were combined into one package in the Senate, which President Joe Biden said he would sign into law on Wednesday.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he was grateful to U.S. lawmakers for approving “vital” aid for Ukraine.

“This vote reinforces America’s role as a beacon of democracy and leader of the free world,” Zelenskiy said in a statement on the Telegram messaging app.

The largest provides $61 billion in critically needed funding for Ukraine; a second provides $26 billion for Israel and humanitarian aid for civilians in conflict zones around the world, and a third mandates $8.12 billion to “counter communist China” in the Indo-Pacific.

A fourth, which the House added to the package last week, includes a potential ban on the Chinese-controlled social media app TikTok, measures for the transfer of seized Russian assets to Ukraine and new sanctions on Iran.

Biden’s administration is already preparing a $1 billion military aid package for Ukraine, the first sourced from the bill, two U.S. officials told Reuters. It includes vehicles, Stinger air defense munitions, additional ammunition for high-mobility artillery rocket systems, 155 millimeter artillery ammunition, TOW and Javelin anti-tank munitions and other weapons that can immediately be put to use on the battlefield.

The Senate’s Democratic and Republican leaders predicted that Congress had turned the corner in putting Russian President Vladimir Putin and other foreign adversaries on notice that Washington will continue supporting Ukraine and other foreign partners.

“This national security bill is one of the most important measures Congress has passed in a very long time to protect American security and the security of Western democracy,”

Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told a news conference after the vote.

The aid package could be the last approved for Ukraine until after elections in November when the White House, House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate are up for grabs.

Much of the opposition to the security assistance in both the House and Senate has come from Republicans with close ties to former U.S. President Donald Trump, a Ukraine aid skeptic who has stressed “America First” policies as he seeks a second term.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, a strong advocate for assisting Ukraine, expressed regret about the delay, largely due to hardline Republicans’ objections to adding more to the $113 billion Washington had authorized for Kyiv since Russia began its full-scale invasion in February 2022.

“I think we’ve turned the corner on the isolationist movement,” McConnell told a news conference.

Some of the Ukraine money – $10 billion in economic support – comes in the form of a loan, which Trump had suggested. But the bill lets the president forgive the loan starting in 2026.

‘NOW GO WIN THE FIGHT’

The influx of weapons should improve Kyiv’s chances of averting a major breakthrough in the east by Russian invaders, although it would have been more helpful if the aid had come closer to when Biden requested it last year, analysts said.

Schumer said he left a message for Zelenskiy on Tuesday night, telling him, “OK, we got it done. Now go win the fight.”

It was not immediately clear how the money for Israel would affect the conflict in Gaza. Israel already receives billions of dollars in annual U.S. security assistance, but it more recently has faced its first direct aerial attack by Iran.

Aid supporters hope the humanitarian assistance will help Palestinians in Gaza, which has been devastated by Israel’s campaign against Hamas to retaliate for Oct. 7 attacks that killed 1,200 people.

Gaza health authorities say the campaign has led to the deaths of more than 34,000 civilians in the Palestinian enclave.

It was the second time this year that the Democratic-led Senate passed security aid for Ukraine, Israel and the Indo-Pacific. The last bill, more than two months ago, garnered 70% support in the 100-member chamber from Republicans and Democrats. But leaders of the Republican-controlled House would not allow a vote on the foreign aid until last week.

The legislation’s progress has been closely watched by industry, with U.S. defense firms up for major contracts to supply equipment for Ukraine and other U.S. partners.

Experts expect the supplemental spending to boost the order backlog of RTX Corp (RTX.N), opens new tab along with other major companies that receive government contracts, such as Lockheed Martin (LMT.N), opens new tab, General Dynamics (GD.N), opens new tab and Northrop Grumman (NOC.N), opens new tab.

The House passed the Ukraine funding by 311-112, with all “no” votes coming from Republicans, many of whom were bitterly opposed to further assistance for Kyiv. Only 101 Republicans voted for it, forcing Speaker Mike Johnson to rely on Democratic support and prompting calls for his ouster as House leader.

However, the House left Washington for a week-long recess, without triggering a vote to remove Johnson.

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