Ukraine, Israel Aid on Track to Pass as Democrats Back Plan

(Bloomberg) -- Long-stalled aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan is on track to pass Congress as House Democrats lined up to back Speaker Mike Johnson’s plan and provide the votes to overcome a planned blockade attempt by GOP conservatives.

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The House is expected to hold a series of votes Saturday on the aid package with the Senate taking it up as soon as next week. The plan largely mirrors the $95 billion foreign aid package the Senate passed in February, with about $10 billion in economic assistance to Ukraine converted into a loan.

“We’re going to do what’s necessary to make sure the national security bill gets over the finish line,” House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York said. “It’s not Johnson’s foreign aid package. It’s America’s foreign aid package in terms of meeting our national security needs.”

The Biden administration is preparing to move aid swiftly to Ukraine once Congress passes the measure and the president signs it into law, a US official said.

Johnson will need votes from Democrats to pass the plan after ultra-conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus said they would vote against a procedural measure to start debate on it. Minority Democrats had to do the same thing in May in order to pass a measure to raise the debt ceiling and prevent a US payment default.

The $95 billion aid package contains national security and sanctions provisions with bipartisan support. It also allows the confiscation of Russian dollar assets, something critics allege would weaken the status of the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency.

China-based Bytedance Ltd would be required to divest the popular social media app Tik Tok or face a ban on the app. But the legislation sets a deadline for doing so well past the November US elections. The package also mandates sanctions on Iranian oil but does not expedite natural gas exports due to objections by Democrats.

Democrats may also have to help Johnson keep his job, which has come under increasing threat due to his decision to allow a vote on Ukraine aid without tying the package to US border security provisions.

Georgia Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene could trigger a vote on a motion to oust the speaker at any time and she would need just a handful of other conservatives to support her if Democrats go along. Some moderate Democrats have already vowed to protect the speaker from such an attempt by voting to dismiss the ouster motion.

President Joe Biden first requested the Ukraine and Israel aid in October but it quickly fell victim to congressional squabbling over immigration policy.

Johnson told reporters late Wednesday he has not asked Democrats to help him and he is willing to risk his job to help Ukraine stop Russia’s invasion.

“My philosophy is you do the right thing and you let the chips fall where they may,” he said. “I’m a Reagan Republican. I believe in peace through strength.”

--With assistance from Jennifer Jacobs, Jonathan Tamari and Maeve Sheehey.

(Updates with Biden administration preparations to move Ukraine aid in fourth paragraph)

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