Salem Radio Network News Monday, February 26, 2024

Politics

Biden, senators urge House Republicans to take up $95 billion Ukraine bill

By David Morgan and Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Democratic President Joe Biden and a bipartisan group of lawmakers including the top U.S. Senate Republican on Tuesday urged the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to take up a $95.34 billion military aid package for Ukraine and other allies.

The measure passed the Senate in a 70-29 vote shortly before dawn on Tuesday after a hardline group of Republicans spent the night trying to block it. But it was unclear if House Speaker Mike Johnson would even bring it up for a vote in the chamber his party controls by a narrow 219-212 margin.

Both houses of Congress must approve the legislation before Biden can sign it into law.

Ukraine’s leadership sees the funding as crucial as it continues to fight an invasion launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin nearly two years ago. Biden has been pushing for the package, which also includes security funding for Israel and Taiwan and humanitarian aid for Palestinians, for months, but has faced opposition from Republican hardliners, particularly those most closely aligned with former President Donald Trump.

“I call on the speaker to let the full House speak its mind and not allow a minority of the most extreme voices in the House to block this bill even from being voted on,” Biden said in remarks from the White House. “Supporting this bill is standing up to Putin, opposing it is playing into Putin’s hands.”

Senate Republican Mitch McConnell, who was among the 22 Republicans in the chamber who voted for the bill, said he hoped the House would consider it.

“I hope the speaker will find a way to allow the House to work its will on the issue of Ukraine aid and the other parts of the bill as well,” McConnell told Politico in an interview.

Johnson issued a statement before the Senate vote that faulted the bill for lacking conservative provisions to stem a record flow of migrants across the U.S.-Mexico border, suggesting he would not schedule a vote any time soon.

“America deserves better than the Senate’s status quo,” Johnson said in his statement.

Senate Republicans last week blocked a bill that would have coupled the security aid with the most sweeping changes to border policy in decades, after Trump, the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, criticized it.

Johnson has suggested in the past that the House could split the legislation into separate bills and twice introduced bills providing aid only to Israel, neither of which succeeded.

The House on Tuesday was planning its second vote to try to impeach Biden’s top border official, after an embarrassing failure last week for Johnson.

ALTERNATE PATHS

If Johnson does not agree to a vote on the bill, Democrats could attempt a rare maneuver known as a “discharge petition,” which allows members to force a House vote. That maneuver requires the signatures of a majority of the House’s members. The last successful discharge petition was filed in 2015.

House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries sent a letter to his caucus promising to “use every available legislative tool” to get the bill passed. That could include a discharge petition, although he would not say whether he planned to attempt it.

He told a news conference that he believed there were 300 votes – both Democratic and Republican – in the House in favor of the national security bill.

The House has not passed major assistance for Ukraine since Republicans took control of the chamber in January 2023. Staunch Trump ally Johnson voted against previous aid bills for Kyiv before he became speaker last year.

The package also includes funds for Israel, humanitarian aid for Palestinians in Gaza and funds to help Taiwan and other U.S. partners in the Indo-Pacific stand up to China.

Some opponents of the bill demanded that any foreign assistance be offset by spending cuts, noting large federal budget deficits. “We shouldn’t borrow $100 billion from our kids and our grandkids to send it overseas,” Republican Representative Bob Good told reporters.

Ukrainian officials have warned of weapons shortages at a time when Russia is pressing ahead with renewed attacks.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy quickly hailed passage of the bill. “American assistance brings just peace in Ukraine closer and restores global stability, resulting in increased security and prosperity for all Americans and all the free world,” Zelenskiy said on the social media platform X.

Backers of the aid have been warily watching Trump’s reaction. He has criticized the aid on social media, saying it should take the form of a loan, and also worried U.S. allies by suggesting he could encourage aggression against some NATO members.

(Reporting by David Morgan; Additional reporting by Yuliia Dysa in Gdansk, Poland; and Richard Cowan, Patricia Zengerle, Makini Brice and Doina Chiacu in Washington; Editing by Scott Malone, Jonathan Oatis, Ros Russell and Cynthia Osterman)

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