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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Joanna Walters in New York and agencies

US House pushes ahead with $95bn foreign aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan

a man with dark hair and glasses in a blue suit and red tie walks amid a group of people
Mike Johnson, the House speaker, at the US Capitol on Friday in Washington DC. Photograph: Andrew Harnik/Getty Images

The US House pushed ahead on Friday with a $95bn foreign aid package for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and humanitarian support after Democrats came to the rescue of Mike Johnson, the Republican speaker.

A coalition of lawmakers helped the legislation clear a procedural hurdle to reach final votes this weekend, as Friday morning’s vote followed a rare move late on Thursday for a House committee that normally votes along party lines.

The dramatic action took place on Capitol Hill on Thursday night in order to save the Ukraine aid legislation from rightwing rebels.

On Friday morning Antony Blinken, the secretary of state, warned that if US aid was further delayed for Ukraine “there is a real risk it will arrive too late” to help the grinding resistance to Russia’s invasion.

Then the House voted on the procedure agreed the night before, again producing a seldom-seen outcome in the typically hyper-partisan chamber, with Democrats helping Johnson’s plan advance by 316 votes to 94.

Johnson now looks set to push forward this weekend on the package for Kyiv, Israel, Taiwan and other allies, which had stalled in the House after passing the Senate. This despite a firestorm of protest from hardline Republicans that could lead to an attempt to oust him.

The House is expected to vote on Saturday on the aid legislation that provides $61bn for the conflict in Ukraine, including $23bn to replenish US weapons, $26bn for Israel, including $9.1bn for humanitarian needs, and $8.12bn for the Indo-Pacific. If passed, it would then go back to the Senate.

The aid legislation is the latest in a series of must-pass bipartisan measures that Johnson has helped shepherd through Congress, including two huge spending bills and a controversial reauthorization of federal surveillance programs.

Republicans hold a narrow House majority, 218-213 , a margin so scant that Mike Gallagher is postponing his mid-session retirement, originally set for Friday, so the Republican representative can be present to vote for the bill.

On Thursday night, the four Democrats on the House rules committee voted with five Republicans to advance the aid package that Johnson has devised, agreeing procedures.

The rules committee would normally be a safely partisan affair for the Republican majority, but Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Ralph Norman of South Carolina and Chip Roy of Texas, all on the far right, are voting against advancing the bill, prompting Democrats to step in to save it.

Kevin McCarthy, the former speaker, put them on the committee to placate the far-right contingent of his caucus in the House.

Johnson has won praise from Republican centrists and even Democrats by taking the line that he is doing “the right thing” on the aid legislation even if it brings challenges to his position from his own party, which has the power very easily to force a vote to oust him.

Johnson got a boost from Donald Trump last week when they held an event together at the former president’s residence in Florida and, again, on Thursday when Trump made a post on social media that did not actively oppose aid for Ukraine.

Trump appeared to warm to the idea after having dinner with Andrzej Duda, Poland’s far-right president, in New York on Tuesday, with Poland very wary about the power of an emboldened neighbor Russia to threaten eastern Europe.

Friday’s vote was a victory for the strategy Johnson set in motion this week after he agonized for two months over the aid legislation. He had to spend the past 24 hours making the rounds on conservative media working to salvage support.

The current package is similar to a measure that passed the Democratic-majority Senate in February and which Joe Biden, Chuck Schumer, Mitch McConnell and Hakeem Jeffries had been pushing for a House vote since then.

In addition to the aid for allies, the package includes a provision to transfer frozen Russian assets to Ukraine, and sanctions targeting Hamas and Iran – and to force China’s ByteDance to sell social media platform TikTok or face a ban in the US.

Schumer on Friday told senators to be prepared to return this weekend if the package passes the House and goes back to the Senate. If passed by the upper chamber, it must go to the US president’s desk before becoming law.

Some conservative lawmakers oppose more aid to Ukraine, while some progressive Democrats are reluctant on more Israel aid, given the slaughter and famine in Gaza.

Reuters and the Associated Press contributed reporting

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