The U.S. Capitol building with red tulips.

The U.S. Capitol as seen on March 21, 2024. (Gianna Gronowski/Stars and Stripes)

WASHINGTON — The Senate voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to approve $95 billion in foreign aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, ending months of political deadlock that saw the bill stall due to Republican opposition to arming Ukraine while Russia gained momentum on the battlefield.

Senators approved the assistance package in a 79-18 vote after the House this weekend passed a version of the legislation that allowed members to cast votes on aid to each country individually. The majority of House Republicans voted against continuing to help the Ukrainian military fight Russia’s invasion.

On Tuesday night, most Senate Republicans rejected the isolationist stance of their colleagues in the House and stood in support of Kyiv.

“Take it from this senator, elected to this body alongside President [Ronald] Reagan: the conservative position is to believe in America, to invest in our military and to support freedom,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the longest-serving Republican in congressional history.

The legislation contains $60 billion for Ukraine, $26 billion for Israel’s military as well as humanitarian aid for civilians in the Gaza Strip and other conflict zones and $8 billion for Taiwan and other partners in the Indo-Pacific region to counter China.

Several members of the Democratic caucus objected to the package due to its aid for Israel, condemning the destruction and suffering caused by the Israeli campaign against Hamas militants in Gaza.

Much of the funds for Ukraine will go to the Pentagon to replenish American stockpiles of weapons and equipment sent to Ukraine, finance new purchases of weapons for Kyiv and pay for an intensified U.S. troop presence in Europe.

The bill also seeks the repayment of $10 billion in economic assistance to the Ukrainian government, though it would also allow the forgiveness of the loans beginning in 2026. Another measure would allow the selling of frozen Russian assets in the U.S. to finance Ukraine’s reconstruction.

Congress last approved a major tranche of funding for Ukraine in December 2022. The foreign aid package approved Tuesday was first requested by the White House in October and faced a tortuous path through Congress as Republicans resisted additional assistance for the Ukrainian war effort.

The Senate passed its own $95 billion emergency aid legislation for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan in February after a deal pushed by Republicans to pair the bill with stricter immigration provisions unraveled amid criticism from former President Donald Trump.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., hesitated to bring the aid package up for a vote as hard-right Republicans threatened to oust him but he relented last week under mounting pressure to act. He broke up the legislation into several pieces to prevent Republican aversion to new Ukraine aid from tanking the entire bill.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called the House passage of the legislation “a watershed moment for the defense of democracy.”

In remarks before the Senate vote Tuesday, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., denounced members of his party who “indulge the fantasy of pulling up a drawbridge” and turn their backs on a longstanding bipartisan commitment to project American values around the world.

“Dithering and hesitation have compounded the challenges we face. Today’s action is overdue, but our work does not end here,” he said. “Trust in American resolve is not rebuilt overnight. Expanding and restocking the arsenal of democracy doesn’t just happen by magic.”

A number of Senate Republicans flipped to support the aid package after voting against it in February.

Top national security officials raised alarm in recent weeks that Ukraine could lose without continued support from the United States. Army Gen. Christopher Cavoli, who leads U.S. European Command and is NATO supreme allied commander, warned of dire ammunition shortages and said Ukraine’s military will be outgunned 10 to one by Russia within weeks.

Cavoli said the U.S. provides Ukraine with “the most critical things on the battlefield”: artillery rounds and ground-based air defense. The biggest killer on the battlefield is artillery, he said, and should Ukraine run out, “they would run out because we stopped supplying.”

Russia has made territorial advances as aid stalled in Congress. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told lawmakers this month that the battlefield has shifted in Russia’s favor and Russian forces are making “incremental gains.”

“We’re seeing the Ukrainians be challenged in terms of holding the line,” he said.

The Pentagon is preparing to rush $1 billion in weapons and equipment to Ukraine once President Joe Biden signs the aid package into law. Air Force Maj. Gen. Patrick Ryder, the Pentagon’s top spokesman, said the Defense Department’s robust logistics network “enables us to move materiel very quickly,” possibly within days.

“We certainly understand and appreciate the urgency and are poised to move quickly,” Ryder told reporters last week.

The White House used cost savings from previous contracts to approve a $300 million emergency package of aid to Ukraine last month but ran out of money to keep up with regular deliveries of weapons to Ukraine in December.

The aid package approved Tuesday will reauthorize the Pentagon to pull up to $7.8 billion worth of supplies for Ukraine from its inventories. More than $23 million will be spent on backfilling U.S. stockpiles.

Ukraine eagerly anticipated passage of the legislation, with members of the country’s parliament holding up American flags on Tuesday in a show of gratitude for U.S. lawmakers who waved Ukrainian flags on the House floor this weekend.

Minutes after senators cast their votes, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine thanked lawmakers for finally marshalling the aid package across the finish line.

“This vote reinforces America’s role as a beacon of democracy and the leader of the free world,” he wrote on social media.

author picture
Svetlana Shkolnikova covers Congress for Stars and Stripes. She previously worked with the House Foreign Affairs Committee as an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow and spent four years as a general assignment reporter for The Record newspaper in New Jersey and the USA Today Network. A native of Belarus, she has also reported from Moscow, Russia.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now