Congress to vote on Israel and Ukraine aid this weekend as Biden rallies Democrat support

US President has endorsed the Republican-led House package

The US Capitol building in Washington. Getty Images / AFP
Powered by automated translation

The US House of Representatives is this weekend set to vote on supplying Ukraine and Israel with additional funding, potentially bringing to a head a lengthy process that has left the Ukrainian military desperately short of ammunition.

The tumultuous legislative process has also threatened the position of House Speaker Mike Johnson, who risks incurring the rage of far-right Republicans who oppose helping Ukraine as it fights Russia's invasion.

Leaders in Congress were on Wednesday afternoon poring over the text of four recently new Republican bills that Mr Johnson put forward in lieu of a Senate-approved package that lumped foreign aid for Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan into one package.

In a memo to his Republican colleagues, he announced that “we expect the vote on final passage on these bills to be on Saturday evening”, in line with a 72-hour rule for congressional review after a bill's release.

President Joe Biden on Wednesday said that he “supports this package to get critical support to Israel and Ukraine, provide desperately needed humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza, and bolster security and stability in the Indo-Pacific”.

“The House must pass the package this week and the Senate should quickly follow," Mr Biden said in a statement.

"I will sign this into law immediately to send a message to the world: We stand with our friends, and we won’t let Iran or Russia succeed."

The bills will need Democratic support to pass, as Republicans hold a razor-thin majority in the House and the Senate is controlled by the Democrats.

Democratic Representative Bill Keating, meanwhile, told the House foreign affairs Middle East subcommittee that the chamber should invoke a rare discharge petition to force a final vote on the Senate package.

Why is the US struggling to pass Israel funding during the war in Gaza?

Why is the US struggling to pass Israel funding during the war in Gaza?

The four bills contain near-identical funds to those outlined in the Senate deal: $61 billion for Ukraine and regional partners, $26 billion for Israel and $8 billion for the Indo-Pacific.

The decision to split the funds, and effectively restart the legislative process, stems from Mr Johnson's hopes to keep far-right Republicans from voting to remove him from the speakership over their opposition to Ukraine funding and disputes over the Mexican border policy.

Department of Defence officials, meanwhile, warned Congress that the situation in Ukraine grows more desperate by the day.

Gen Charles Brown, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs, told the House appropriations defence subcommittee that Kyiv “is facing some dire battlefield conditions”.

“Whether it’s munitions, whether it’s vehicles, whether it’s platforms – they’re being outmatched by the Russians,” Gen Brown said.

Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin said: “Unless they [Ukraine] have the air defence interceptors, the artillery munitions and other things that they need, it’s going to be very difficult to for them to sustain their efforts now.

“It has ramifications not only for Europe, but for the United States of America. Because we all know that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin won’t stop in Ukraine.”

The Ukrainian embassy told The National that there will be "some bilateral meetings connecting with supplemental" on Capitol Hill this week.

Updated: April 17, 2024, 9:50 PM