US defense aid for Ukraine: Long-awaited legislation heading to Senate for final passage

US defense aid for Ukraine: Long-awaited legislation heading to Senate for final passage

After the House votes, the Senate Majority Leader vowed to take the next step on Tuesday

The US House of Representatives on Saturday passed a major package of foreign aid bills containing funds for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan, along with a response to America's other national security challenges. This vote, without exaggeration, became historic for our country, because it has finally put an end to the multi-month struggle against populism and apparently Kremlin-friendly rhetoric that penetrated Washington's Capitol Hill. This is how the Republican Congressmen, who have become tired of manipulations by their far-right colleagues from the MAGA faction, assess the situation.  The package is expected to pass through the Senate vote and be signed into law by the US President within a few days’ time. Apparently, numbered days are left until the first shipment of desperately needed weapons and defense equipment is sent to Ukraine.



The voting process on Saturday was intense, busy and relatively fast. Lawmakers first tried to pass a document to tight the U.S. southern border. It was not formally included in the package of four draft laws providing aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan and introducing other measures regarding national security.

The border issue, known as the "Fifth Bill", on which far-right and conservative Republicans insisted so much, was put to a separate vote and passed as priority. The Republicans were thus able to defeat their own initiative once again, and this was predictable given that the initiative did not involve any compromises with the Democrats from the beginning. When the bill failed to garner even a simple majority of the required two-thirds of the votes minimum, the tension in the hall increased. Those who opposed to supporting Ukraine under the guise of the need to provide the funding for strengthening the border with Mexico instead of supporting Ukraine’s Armed Forces, had failed to get what they wanted.

The danger was that Trumpist Republicans could have set in motion a move by Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Green demanding the Speaker to resign.  She threatened to use this option once Ukraine aid was put to vote, and this would have put on hold all kinds of House’s legislative activity until a new speaker is elected.

Fortunately, this didn’t happen - neither at the time the border bill failed passage, nor later. A healthy approach within the Republican Party had apparently prevailed. Because otherwise, the Speaker’s resignation would mean a new attempt to plunge Congress into chaos, and would inevitably bury all Republicans’ hopes to keep their majority in the House of Representatives after this year's elections.


The basic procedure for the adoption of the four-bill package, which included aid to Ukraine, began almost on schedule, at around 13:00 Washington DC time. The primary intrigue was how legislators would vote precisely for the Ukrainian project registered as H.R.8035. After all, the Ukrainian issue had for many months remained the cause of deep divisions within the Republican Party.

The day before, legislators, most of them Republicans, introduced 137 amendments to this draft law. It became an outright legislative "spam" because some of the proposed changes were clearly at odds with common sense.

Nevertheless, it clearly demonstrated how desperate the efforts by the "Putin’s faction" - as this group of lawmakers was nicknamed by their colleagues in the House of Representatives - were to prevent support for Ukraine. In particular, the most absurd amendments came from Marjorie Taylor Green. She demanded that construction of a wall on the border with Mexico be funded at the expense of the countries that help Ukraine. Another amendment was to invite legislators favoring assistance to Ukraine’s military to join the ranks of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. On top of that, Green proposed that all allocations for Ukraine be, quite literally, multiplied "by zero".

Congresswoman Victoria Spartz, herself an ethnic Ukrainian, also stood out, demanding to cancel aid to Ukrainian refugees, as well as to cut certain types of aid to Ukraine.

After consideration of all the amendments by the House Committee on Rules, only four had been adopted for further consideration. They demanded to either reduce or cancel altogether the aid to our country. It is worth noting that only two amendments, which were easily rejected by a majority of the Congress, had eventually managed to proceed to a roll call vote.

The attempts by "Putin's faction" did not stop there, however. Just a moment after the speaker had announced the "Ukrainian" bill H.R.8035 is about to be put to vote, Congressman Keith Self moved  to send the document to the relevant committee for reconsideration. He thus forced an additional vote on his motion. The Self's attempt, however, was the last hurdle on the long road the Ukraine aid package has overcome in the House of Representatives.

In the main vote, the draft law garnered 311 votes in support, which was a much better result than expected. In particular, it was previously expected that two-thirds of the chamber, i.e. 290 congressmen, would vote "yes". And this came as a tough defeat for ultra-right MAGA representatives, who realized they had lost the opportunity to blackmail the entire Republican Party for the sake of achieving their own interests. It also proved that Speaker Mike Johnson, previously thought to be a MAGA supporter, must listen to his party's adequate majority and reach bipartisan compromises to truly live up to his high position and not to harm US national security interests.


Draft law H.R.8035 "Ukraine Security Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2024" allocates $60.84 billion in both aid to Ukraine and regional partners for defense against Russia. According to official information released by the House Committee on Appropriations, this amount includes, in particular, $23.2 billion for replenishing the supplies the Pentagon had sent to Ukraine previously. Almost $14 billion will procure advanced weapons systems and defense equipment and services for Ukraine. The document additionally earmarks $11.3 billion for ongoing US military operations in the region and $26 million for tracking and reporting weapons deliveries in Ukraine.

At the same time, the proposed legislation provides for the supply, with the consent of the White House, of long-range ATACMS missile systems to Ukraine and requires allies and partners to allocate a fair share of support.

Separately, the bill, in the section on economic assistance to our country, introduces a rule regarding the return of the funds, which was not there in the previous version approved by the Senate in February. This is about more than $9 billion worth of what’s known as “forgivable loan”. In particular, the bill provides the President with authority to set the terms of the loan for Ukraine, along with authority to cancel, with the consent of Congress, 50% of that debt after Nov. 15, 2024, and then the remaining 50% after January 2026.

It is worth noting that the package of four bills passed by the House of Representatives on Saturday also includes the 21st Century Peace through Strength Act (H.R.8038). In particular, it authorizes the U.S. Presidential Administration to ensure compensation to Ukraine using seized Russian sovereign assets. In addition, the legislation imposes new sanctions with respect to Russia, Iran and foreign terrorist organizations who threaten to disrupt the Middle East peace process. The bill additionally imposes sanctions on China for potentially helping Iran circumvent the oil embargo, and introduces certain restrictions on the Chinese app TikTok to prevent transfer of personal sensitive data of U.S. individuals to China’s intelligence services. In general, the proposed legislation aims to address lots of other US national security concerns that Washington attributes to Moscow-Tehran-Beijing "axis of evil".


After the four foreign aid bills passed through a House vote on Saturday, they are heading to the Senate for final passage as a single combined package. Since this package does not differ significantly from the version passed by the upper house in February, it will be considered as a similar document with changes that would simplify consideration and approval procedures. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer vowed that the next step would be taken on Tuesday. And President Biden has already announced that he is awaiting the newly approved legislation at White House for signature.

So, the next question is how soon the tangible aid can reach Ukraine after relevant legislative procedures are completed. The Pentagon has already announced it would send weapons within days once the law becomes effective. That’s because it has a network of storage facilities in Europe that already store the ammunition and air defense components that Kyiv desperately needs.

In addition, both the US Department of Defense and the Embassy of Ukraine in Washington have repeatedly stated that U.S.-Ukraine contacts have taken place on almost daily basis at various levels, first and foremost as it regards the situation on the battlefield and the capabilities Ukraine needs for defense, with the Pentagon focusing on helping Ukraine secure its airspace against Russia’s missile and drone attacks.  Washington, of course, has full information on the specific types of weapons, missiles and projectiles the Ukrainian Armed Forces need most.

Once the long-awaited aid package for Ukraine had received House approval, the process is definitely underway. This means that in the coming days and weeks, Ukraine will begin to receive vital support tant support that will enable it to change the situation on the battlefield and to ensure peaceful skies over Ukraine.

Yaroslav Dovhopol, Washington

Headline Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Read also: Sunak tells Zelensky about the largest military aid package from Britain

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