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Irish Independent

US House approves £32.4 billion Ukraine aid package

President Joe Biden speaks in in the South Court Auditorium in the White House complex in Washington (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

The US House of Representatives has emphatically approved a fresh 40 billion dollar (£32.4 billion) aid package for Ukraine.

The measure sailed to passage by a lopsided 368-57 margin, providing 7 billion more than President Joe Biden’s request from April and dividing the increase evenly between defence and humanitarian programs.

The bill would give Ukraine military and economic assistance, help regional allies, replenish weapons the Pentagon has shipped overseas and provide 5 billion (£4.5 billion) to address global food shortages caused by the war’s crippling of Ukraine’s normally robust production of many crops.

The measure was backed by every voting Democrat and by nearly three out of four Republicans.

The new legislation would bring American support for the effort to nearly 54 billion (£40.7 billion), including the 13.6 billion in support Congress enacted in March.

That is about six billion more than the US spent on all its foreign and military aid in 2019, according to a January report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, which studies issues for lawmakers. It is also around 1% of the entire federal budget.

The measure was released as Washington has become increasingly assertive about its goals and its willingness to help Ukraine with more sophisticated weapons. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said recently the US wants a “weakened” Russia that cannot quickly restore its capability to attack other countries.

Russian attacks on Ukraine’s southern port of Odesa have intensified in what seems an attempt to hamper deliveries of Western arms. Those weapons have helped Ukraine hold its own surprisingly well against its more lethal foe, but the grinding war is taking its toll.

Senate approval of Ukrainian aid seems certain, and members of both parties have echoed the need for quick action.

“As Putin desperately accelerates his campaign of horror and brutality in Ukraine, time is of the essence,” said House speaker Nancy Pelosi.

But it was unclear when the Senate would act, and changes there were possible, with Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell insisting that the measure be narrowly focused on the war.

“I think we’re on a path to getting that done,” Mr McConnell told reporters. “It needs to be clean of extraneous matters, directly related to helping the Ukrainians win the war.”

Oksana Markarova, Ukraine’s ambassador to the US, attended Tuesday’s separate Democratic and Republican Senate lunches and expressed gratitude for the support they have received.

The new measure includes 6 billion to arm and train Ukrainian forces, 8.7 billion to restore American stores of weapons shipped to Ukraine and 3.9 billion for US forces deployed to the area.

There is also 8.8 billion in economic support for Ukraine, 4 billion to help Ukraine and allies finance arms and equipment purchases and 900 million for housing, education and other help for Ukrainian refugees in the US.