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US Senate passes $95 billion Ukraine aid bill

US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democrat from New York, speaks during a news conference at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. — AFP
US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democrat from New York, speaks during a news conference at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. — AFP

WASHINGTON: The Democratic-led U.S. Senate on Tuesday passed a $95.34 billion aid package for Ukraine, though it faced an uncertain path ahead in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

The lawmakers approved the measure in a 70-29 vote that exceeded the chamber's 60-vote threshold for passage and sent the legislation on to the House. Twenty-two Republicans joined most Democrats to support the bill.

"It's certainly been years, perhaps decades, since the Senate has passed a bill that so greatly impacts not just our national security, not just the security of our allies, but the security of western democracy," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said.

Ukraine leadership sees the funding as crucial as it continues to repel Russian attacks and tries to keep its battered economy going as the war nears its third year. U.S. President Joe Biden has been pushing for the package for months, but has faced opposition from Republican hardliners, particularly in the House.

The Senate vote occurred before sunrise, after eight hardline Republican opponents of Ukraine aid held an overnight marathon of speeches that dominated the chamber floor for more than six hours.

The package also includes funds for Israel, humanitarian aid for Palestinians in Gaza.

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 platform X.

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

Senate Republicans last week blocked a bill that would have coupled aid for Ukraine and other allies with the most sweeping changes to border policy in decades, after Donald Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, loudly criticized that deal.

Backers of the Ukraine aid package have been warily watching Trump's reaction. So far the former president has criticized it on social media, saying it should take the form of a loan, and also

worried U.S. allies

over the weekend by suggesting he could encourage aggression against Nato members who he believes don't pay their dues to Nato.

"In the absence of having received any single border policy change from the Senate, the House will have to continue to work its own will on these important matters," Johnson said in a statement issued late on Monday. — Reuters

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