US Congress Finally Steps Up And Supports Aid To Ukraine

Heather Cox Richardson

Cheering broke out in the gallery and among Democrats on the floor of the House of Representatives this afternoon when the House passed the $60.8 billion aid bill for Ukraine. The vote was 311–112, with all Democrats and 101 Republicans voting in favor and 112 Republicans voting against. One Republican voted present. 

The House also voted on the three other bills that will be packaged with the Ukraine bill as a single measure to go in front of the Senate. The House voted in favor of providing $8.1 billion in support for Taiwan and the Indo-Pacific by a vote of 385–34. It approved more than $26 billion for Israel, including $9.2 billion in humanitarian aid not specifically for Gaza but for populations in crisis, by a vote of 366–58. And it voted 360–58 to place additional sanctions on Iran, seize Russian assets, and require the Chinese owners of TikTok to sell the company within nine months if they want it to continue to be available on U.S. app stores.  

The total price tag of the measures is about $95.3 billion. About $50 billion of it will be used here in the U.S. to replenish the supplies that will go abroad. 

Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) says the Senate will take up the measure on Tuesday. Senators had gone home for recess but will come back to vote. The Department of Defense says it is ready to rush crucial supplies as soon as it gets the go-ahead. “We have a very robust logistics network that enables us to move material very quickly; as we’ve done in the past, we can move within days,” Pentagon press secretary Air Force Major General Pat Ryder said Thursday.  

Aid to Ukraine has been stalled since Biden first asked for it in October 2023. First, MAGA Republicans said they would never pass such a national security supplemental bill until the U.S. addressed the need for better security at the country’s southern border. Senators, including Republican James Lankford (R-OK) took them at their word and hammered out a strong border security measure, only to have Republicans reject it when Trump demanded they preserve border security as a campaign issue. The Senate then passed the national security supplemental bill without a border measure, but that was back in February. Although it was clear the measure would pass the House, Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) has steadfastly refused to take it up. 

Meanwhile, countries around the globe have been stepping into the breach, providing funds and weapons for Ukraine as Ukraine’s war effort has faltered without U.S. war matériel.

Suddenly, the dam has broken. 

The MAGA extremists who oppose aid to Ukraine expressed anger over the measure’s passage, but outside of that group, there was bipartisan relief and mutual congratulations. The chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Representative Michael McCaul (R-TX), who has been vocal in his belief that Republicans have fallen prey to Russian propaganda, compared today’s vote to the period before World War II, when British prime minister Neville Chamberlain tried to appease dictator Adolf Hitler in 1938 by agreeing to Germany’s annexation of the Sudetenland. To Chamberlain’s successor, Winston Churchill, fell the task of fighting World War II. 

“Our adversaries are watching us here today, and history will judge us on our actions here today,” McCaul said. “So as we deliberate on this vote, you have to ask yourself: Am I Chamberlain or am I Churchill?”

House minority leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) said: “For months, the national security priorities of the American people have been obstructed by pro-Putin extremists determined to let Russia win. A bipartisan coalition of Democrats and Republicans has risen up to work together and ensure that we are getting the national security legislation important to the American people over the finish line.”

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin also released a statement welcoming the passage of the measure. “This bipartisan legislation will allow the Department to surge lifesaving security assistance to help Ukraine defend itself from Russia’s aggression, support Israel’s defense from Iran and its proxies, and increase the flow of urgently needed humanitarian aid to suffering Palestinians in Gaza.” It is also, he wrote, “an important investment in America’s future.”  

President Joe Biden said that “members of both parties in the House voted to advance our national security interests and send a clear message about the power of American leadership on the world stage. At this critical inflection point, they came together to answer history’s call, passing urgently-needed national security legislation that I have fought for months to secure.” 

The reiteration of the bipartisan nature of the vote suggests support for the idea that the breaking dam refers not just to the national security supplemental bill but also to the power of MAGA Republicans more generally. Representative Tom Cole (R-OK) suggested this interpretation in an interview today with Ryan Lizza of Politico

MAGAs are Trump loyalists, counting on his return to power, and Trump is visibly diminished. For the last week, he has been sitting in a courtroom with no choice but to do as he is told by the judge while potential jurors have expressed their dislike of him to his face. This is novel for him, and it is clearly taking a toll. 

Trump’s financial troubles have not gone away, either. Yesterday, New York attorney general Letitia James asked a judge to void the $175 million appeals bond Trump posted to secure the $454 million judgment against him in the business fraud case. She says that the defendants have failed to show that there is enough collateral behind the bond to secure it. She has asked for a replacement bond within a week. Without a bond, James can begin to seize Trump’s property. 

Since Republicans took control of the House, Republican leaders have had to turn to Democrats to find the votes to pass crucial legislation like the national security supplemental bill, preventing a U.S. default, and funding the government. Republicans interested in governing and eager to protect the institutions of democracy appear to be getting fed up with the attention-seeking and bomb-throwing MAGA faction that refuses to do the work of governing. 

That frustration might have been on display when the House also voted on a fifth measure: a border bill the extremist Republicans demanded. Because it was considered under a suspension of the rules, it needed a two-thirds majority to pass. The measure failed with a vote of 215–211. Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, a lawyer with the American Immigration Council advocacy group, noted that the last time the House voted on a similar measure, it got 219 votes. This time it got fewer votes, even with an added $9.5 billion for Texas, Florida, and other states that are restricting immigrants’ rights. 

In The Atlantic today, David Frum noted the changing U.S. political dynamic and, referring  to the Ukraine vote, wrote: “On something that mattered intensely to [Trump]—that had become a badge of pro-Trump identity—Trump’s own party worked with Democrats in the House and Senate to hand him a stinging defeat. This example could become contagious.” In other words, he said: “Ukraine won. Trump lost.”

For his part, leading Russian politician Dmitry Medvedev had his own reaction to the House’s passage of the national security supplemental bill with aid for Ukraine. He vowed that Russia would win the war anyway and added: “[C]onsidering the russophobic decision that took place I can’t help but wish the USA with all sincerity to dive into a new civil war themselves as quickly as possible. Which, I hope, will be very different from the war between North and South in the 19th century and will be waged using aircraft, tanks, artillery, MLRS, all types of missiles and other weapons. And which will finally lead to the inglorious collapse of the vile evil empire of the 21st century—the United States of America.”

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