ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 142

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US Senate advances $95 billion bill for aid to Israel and Ukraine

Pending House approval, legislation would allocate $14 billion for Israel’s war against Hamas and $61 billion for Ukraine’s war against Russia

The US Capitol is seen at sunrise, Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
The US Capitol is seen at sunrise, Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

A $95.34 billion bill that includes aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan advanced in the US Senate on Thursday after Republicans blocked compromise legislation that included a long-sought overhaul of immigration policy.

Senators backed a procedural motion by 67-32, exceeding the 60-vote threshold to advance the bill. Seventeen Republicans voted in favor, in a surprising shift after they blocked the broader bill on Wednesday.

“This is a good first step. This bill is essential for our national security, for the security of our friends in Ukraine, in Israel, for humanitarian aid for innocent civilians in Gaza, and for Taiwan,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in the Senate after the vote.

There was no immediate word on when the 100-member chamber would consider final passage, as some senators said they expected to remain in session during the weekend if necessary.

“We are going to keep working on this bill until the job is done,” Schumer said.

The Democratic-led Senate took up the security aid bill after Republicans on Wednesday blocked a broader measure that also included reforms of border security and immigration policy that a bipartisan group of senators had negotiated for months.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer arrives at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The security aid bill includes $61 billion for Ukraine as it battles a Russian invasion, $14 billion for Israel in its war against Hamas and $4.83 billion to support partners in the Indo-Pacific, including Taiwan, and deter aggression by China.

It also would provide $9.15 billion in humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza and the West Bank, Ukraine and other populations in conflict zones around the globe.

Even if the aid bill eventually passes the Senate, it faces uncertainty in the House of Representatives. Dozens of Republican House members, particularly those most closely allied with former president Donald Trump, have voted against Ukraine aid, including Speaker Mike Johnson.

While lawmakers have approved more than $110 billion for Ukraine since Russia invaded in February 2022, Congress has not passed any major aid for Kyiv since Republicans took control of the House in January 2023.

Supporters of Ukraine aid say Washington and its partners must send a unified message to Russia as well as globally.

The Kremlin said Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke by phone on Thursday and both rejected what they called US interference in the affairs of other countries.

The $14 billion allocated to Israel would assist the country in its war against the terror organization Hamas. That war broke out on October 7 when 3,000 Hamas terrorists infiltrated Israel under a barrage of rockets, killing some 1,200 people, most of whom were civilians, and kidnapping about 250. Following a brief truce last year, over 100 hostages were released. An estimated 132 hostages remain in Gaza, and about 30 are believed to be dead.

Over 27,000 Palestinians have been killed in the war, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza. These numbers, however, cannot be independently verified and are believed to include over 10,000 members of Hamas’s military wing who were killed in battle and Gazans killed by misfired rockets.

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