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Tag: ukraine aid

McConnell: Senate Will Vote Wednesday On $40 Billion Ukraine Aid Package

(Reuters) -- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Sunday that he expects the Senate to vote on Wednesday to approve about $40 billion in proposed aid to help Ukraine resist Russia's invasion, after holding a related procedural vote on Monday.

"We expect to invoke cloture -- hopefully by a significant margin -- on the motion to proceed on Monday, which would set us up to approve the supplemental on Wednesday," McConnell told reporters on a conference call from Stockholm after visiting the Ukrainian capital on Saturday. He was referring to a procedural "cloture" vote that caps further debate on a matter at 30 hours.

President Joe Biden requested $33 billion in aid for Ukraine on April 28, including over $20 billion in military assistance. The U.S. House of Representatives boosted the sum to roughly $40 billion, adding more military and humanitarian aid.

Speaking from the capital of Sweden, which along with Finland plans to seek membership in NATO, McConnell voiced strong support for both countries joining the 30-member Western military alliance created to deter Soviet aggression.

"They have very capable militaries, both of them," McConnell said. "They will be important additions to NATO if they choose to join, and I think the United States ought to be first in line to ratify the treaty for both these countries to join."

(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed in St.Paul, Minnesota, and Doina Chiacu in Washington; editing by Matthew Lewis and Jonathan Oatis)

57 Extremist House Republicans Vote No On Ukraine Aid

Nearly five dozen House Republicans voted against a $40 billion aid package to help Ukraine fight off the violent Russian invasion of their country.

The aid package still passed the House by a vote of 368-57, with every Democrat voting in favor of helping Ukraine beat back Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose violent invasion has led to nearly more than 2,400 civilian deaths and thousands more injuries, according to the United Nations.

The bill includes both military funding to help the Ukrainians fight back against their Russian aggressors, as well as humanitarian aid to help the struggling citizens in the war-torn country.

Those 57 Republicans voted against the aid package as Democrats and Republicans alike described the funding as a vote against Putin — whose brutality is part of an effort to expand Russia's geographic footprint.

"This is a historic vote, and it could determine the course of this war, and to vote no is a vote for Putin," Rep. Mike McCaul (R-TX) told Politico.

The Republican "no" votes were from some of former President Donald Trump's biggest supporters in the House, including Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), and Jim Jordan (R-OH).

In February, at the start of Putin's invasion, Trump praised Putin as "smart," saying that the Russian dictator's decision to invade Ukraine was "genius" and "wonderful." In the months since, Russia has unleashed brutal attacks on civilians and has seen its military suffer losses — including of top Russian generals.

In a speech on the House floor, Greene said that the United States shouldn't help Ukraine because the country needs to stop "funding regime change and money laundering scams."

Polling, however, shows that providing aid to Ukraine is overwhelmingly popular among the typically polarized American electorate.

A Washington Post/ABC News poll from May 2 found that 76 percent of Americans say the United States should give more military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, including a majority of people who voted for Trump.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

Pelosi: House Will Vote $40 Billion Ukraine Aid Package Tonight

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The House of Representatives will vote on a $40 billion military and humanitarian aid package for Ukraine on Tuesday night, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.

The legislation is expected to pass the House and then the Senate within the coming days and go to the White House for President Joe Biden to sign into law, easing fears of an interruption in the supply of military assistance to Kyiv.

Biden asked Congress 10 days ago to approve an additional $33 billion in aid for Ukraine, but lawmakers decided to increase that total to $39.8 billion, adding additional military and humanitarian aid to Biden's request.

"This package, which builds on the robust support already secured by Congress, will be pivotal in helping Ukraine defend not only its nation but democracy for the world," Pelosi said in a letter to House members urging quick passage.

Both Biden's fellow Democrats, who narrowly control both the House and Senate, and Republicans, said they backed the Ukraine aid.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Doina Chiacu; editing by Chris Reese and Lisa Shumaker)

US Diplomats Returning To Kyiv As Blinken And Austin Pledge $700m In Aid

Kyiv (Ukraine) (AFP) - United States diplomats will begin a gradual return to Ukraine this week, Washington's secretary of state and defence chief said Monday, as they announced $700 million in military aid during their first war-time visit to Kyiv.

The trip by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin -- which the United States confirmed only after the two had left Ukrainian territory -- came as the invasion enters its third month, with thousands dead and millions displaced.

Presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky met the US officials Sunday, as the port city of Mariupol's defenses were "on the brink of collapse" and Kyiv was in dire need of offensive weapons.

Washington ordered the withdrawal of its diplomats in the weeks prior to Russia's February invasion of Ukraine, but has been a leading donor of financial aid and weaponry to the country, and a key sponsor of sanctions targeting Moscow.

"Since the start of hostilities, we've had a team across the border in Poland who's been handling this work for us," the official told reporters waiting for Blinken and Austin on the Polish side of the border.

"Starting this week, members of that team will be able to do day trips instead into Ukraine," he said.

"Ultimately, (they will) resume presence in Kyiv."

The visiting envoys also pledged another $700 million in military aid to Ukraine, including some $300 million to allow the country to purchase necessary weapons.

The rest of the money will go to Ukraine's regional allies who need to resupply after sending weapons to their neighbour.

The United States has sent some $4 billion in military aid since Biden's term began last year, and already announced Thursday a new $800 million aid package to bolster Ukraine in their fight against Russian troops in the country's east.

But it has been reluctant to intervene militarily, for fear of entering a conflict against nuclear-armed Russia, and officials Monday poured water over claims the visit represented a major escalation of US involvement in Ukraine.

"This visit does not portend actual involvement by US forces," a senior defence official said.

"The president has been very clear there will be no US troops fighting in Ukraine and that includes the skies over Ukraine."

Somber Easter

The highly sensitive trip by two of President Joe Biden's top cabinet members coincided with Easter celebrations in the largely Orthodox country.

As Ukrainians marked a sombre Easter, with many braving bombardment for blessings, Russian forces showed no sign of easing attacks.

Five civilians were killed and another five wounded in Donetsk on Sunday, the besieged eastern region's Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said. Authorities also reported a death in northeastern Kharkiv.

The day before, a missile strike on the southern city of Odessa left eight dead and at least 18 wounded, according to Zelensky, who said five missiles hit the city.

Russia's defence ministry said it had targeted a major depot stocking foreign weapons near Odessa.

Zelensky accused Russia of being a terrorist state, one that has devastated the port city of Mariupol with weeks of unrelenting bombardment.

And with thousands of its fighters and civilians in Mariupol facing increasingly dire conditions, Kyiv said Sunday it had invited Moscow to talks near the sprawling Azovstal steel plant, where Ukrainian soldiers are still holding out.

"We invited Russians to hold a special round of talks on the spot, right next to the walls of Azovstal," the last Ukrainian stronghold in the strategic port, said Arestovych.

There was no immediate response from Russia. Its president, Vladimir Putin, had ordered his forces not to assault the plant, but the Ukrainians say the attacks continue unabated.

'Very Difficult'

Mariupol, which the Kremlin claims to have "liberated", is pivotal to Russia's war plans to forge a land bridge to Russian-occupied Crimea -- and possibly beyond, as far as Moldova.

On Sunday, the United Nations' Ukraine crisis coordinator Amin Awad called for an "immediate stop" to fighting in the city to allow trapped civilians to leave.

"The lives of tens of thousands, including women, children and older people, are at stake in Mariupol," Awad said in a statement after the latest attempt to evacuate civilians from Mariupol failed.

"We need a pause in fighting right now to save lives."

In a message posted on social media Sunday, Sviatoslav Palamar -- deputy commander of the far-right Azov Regiment, which is sheltering in a warren of tunnels under the steel plant -- said Russian forces continued to rain down fire on Azovstal.

"The enemy continues air strikes, artillery from the sea... enemy tanks continue to strike and infantry is trying to storm," said Palamar.

Ukrainian commander Sergey Volyna described the situation in the complex as "very difficult" and reiterated calls for the international community to help those remaining escape.

"We will not have time to wait for a military solution to the situation, the situation is very critical. Very heated. I don't know how much time we have," he said in an interview.

House Approves Ukraine Aid, Russia Oil Ban, Averts Federal Shutdown

By Richard Cowan and Makini Brice

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The House of Representatives on Wednesday voted to rush $13.6 billion in aid to Ukraine as it battles invading Russian forces, along with $1.5 trillion to keep U.S. government programs operating through Sept. 30 and avoid agency shutdowns this weekend.

The House approved the wide-ranging appropriations in bipartisan votes, sending the legislation to the Senate which aims to act by a midnight Friday deadline when existing U.S. government funds expire.

The aid for Ukraine is intended to help bolster its military as it battles Russian forces and provide humanitarian assistance to citizens, including an estimated 1.5 million refugees already seeking safety abroad.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi indicated that the $13.6 billion is likely to be just the tip of a much broader aid effort.

"All of us will have to do more" to help Ukraine in coming weeks or months and over the long-term to help it rebuild, Pelosi told reporters at her weekly news conference.

She was mainly referring to the United States and its NATO allies.

The House also passed legislation, by a vote of 414-17 to ban U.S. imports of Russian oil and other energy in response to its attack on Ukraine. Fifteen Republicans and two Democrats opposed the measure.

Passage of the bill came one day after President Joe Biden used his executive powers to impose such a ban. The House measure put lawmakers on record as firmly supporting the U.S. trade ban. It also calls for reviewing Russia's participation in some international trade programs, such as the World Trade Organization.

Lawmakers abandoned an effort to attach language revoking Russia's permanent normal trade relations status, which would have allowed the United States to raise tariffs on Russian imports above levels afforded all WTO members.

The U.S. government funding bill passed following a revolt from Pelosi's own Democrats who objected to a $15.6 billion COVID-19 aid initiative because of the way it would have parceled out money to individual states. The money was to be used for research and to stockpile vaccines for possible future spikes in COVID-19 infections.

Following hours of delay, Pelosi had the provision deleted to clear the way for quick passage of the Ukraine money and the "omnibus" $1.5 trillion in federal funding.

Democrats hope to revisit the COVID aid next week in separate legislation.

'Desperate Hour'

The huge government spending bill is the first to reflect Democrats' spending priorities under President Joe Biden, following four years of the Trump administration.

House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro said it increases non-defense domestic spending by 6.7% over last year, the largest rise in four years.

The Ukraine aid package, DeLauro said, would "help the Ukrainian people in their most desperate hour of need."

Republicans also applauded the measure - a rare display of bipartisanship in the deeply divided Congress.

"We must get this bill to the president's desk as soon as possible to respond to these acts of aggression," said Ken Calvert, the top Republican on the defense subcommittee of the appropriations panel.

He was referring to Russia's invasion of Ukraine and specifically the bombing of a hospital earlier on Wednesday. Failure, he added, "would undoubtedly demonstrate weakness on a global scale."

With money for the federal government due to run out at midnight on Friday, the Democratic-controlled House also unanimously approved a separate measure to keep the government funded through Tuesday.

This was seen mainly as a housekeeping step so that congressional clerks would have enough time to process the sprawling omnibus bill following House and Senate passage. That clerical work could extend beyond the midnight Friday deadline.

Acting White House budget director Shalanda Young urged Congress to promptly approve the Ukraine aid and government funding measure and send it to Biden for signing into law.

"The bipartisan funding bill is proof that both parties can come together to deliver for the American people and advance critical national priorities," Young said in a statement.

The omnibus spending plan will boost funding for domestic priorities, including money for infrastructure passed under an earlier bipartisan measure to revamp U.S. roads, bridges and broadband internet.

The plan includes $730 billion in non-defense funding and $782 billion for the U.S. military.

Amid fears that Russia and other "bad actors" could wage cyber attacks against U.S. infrastructure, the government funding bill increases the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency budget by $568.7 million for a total of $2.6 billion for this fiscal year.

In its continuing attempt to unravel the Trump administration's "Remain in Mexico" immigration policy, the bill provided no additional money for immigration hearing facilities that support the program, which forced tens of thousands of migrants to wait in Mexico pending resolution of their U.S. asylum cases.

(Reporting by David Morgan, Makini Brice, Richard Cowan and Susan Heavey, additional reporting by Shubham Kalia in Bengaluru; Editing by Scott Malone, Doina Chiacu, Jonathan Oatis and Bernard Orr)