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Ukraine aid package clears key procedural US Senate vote

February 13, 2024 00:00:00

This photograph taken on January 28, 2024, shows a trench system prepared in recent months by the Ukrainian army on the Kupiansk direction, in the Kharkiv region, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine — AFP

WASHINGTON, Feb 12 (AFP): A sweeping US foreign aid package, including $60 billion for Ukraine, passed a key procedural vote Sunday, although opposition from right-wing Republicans may block it from becoming law.

The $95 billion package includes funding for Israel's fight against Hamas militants and for key strategic ally Taiwan, but the lion's share would help pro-Western Ukraine restock depleted ammunition supplies, weapons and other crucial needs as it enters a third year of war.

The Senate, which has a very slim Democratic majority, voted 67-27 to break a procedural hold placed on the bill, making it almost certain it will pass a final simple-majority vote around midweek.

It is unusual for the Senate to hold votes on the weekend, with Sunday's session also coinciding with the all-important NFL championship game.

"I can't remember the last time the Senate was in session on Super Bowl Sunday, but as I've said all week long, we're going to keep working on this bill until the job is done," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said before the vote.

"As we speak, Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine has rendered parts of Eastern Europe a war zone the likes of which we have not seen in those regions since the Second World War," the New York senator said.

"The only right answer to this threat is for the Senate to face it down unflinchingly, by passing this bill as soon as we can."

The aid had looked dead in the water after Republicans rejected an earlier version on Wednesday that also attached to it many of the US-Mexico border security measures they had spent months championing.

Under pressure from ex-president Donald Trump, who is running for office again and wants to exploit Joe Biden's perceived weakness on immigration, Republicans instead appeared to decide that they would prefer stopping any border reforms until after November's election.

But Republican senators relented in a dramatic vote Thursday after the Democrats decoupled the Ukraine aid from the border issue entirely.

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