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Ukraine war

US Senate advances aid bill for Ukraine despite Trump opposition

US Senate advances aid bill for Ukraine despite Trump opposition
Firefighters work at the site of a fire after a drone strike on a oil depot in Kharkiv, northeastern Ukraine, 10 February 2024, amid the Russian invasion. At least seven people were killed, including three children, due to a fire after Russian shelling on the Nemyshlyan district of Kharkiv overnight 10 February, the chief of the local administration Oleh Syniehubov wrote on telegram. EPA-EFE/YAKIV LIASHENKO

WASHINGTON, Feb 11 (Reuters) - A narrowly divided US Senate moved closer to passing a $95.34 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan on Sunday, showing undiminished bipartisanship despite mounting opposition from Republican hardliners and Donald Trump.

The Democratic-led Senate voted 67-27 to clear the latest procedural hurdle and moved the foreign aid measure toward an ultimate vote on passage in the coming days.

Eighteen Republicans backed the legislation after Trump, the dominant Republican White House candidate, criticized the bill on social media by saying that the foreign aid should take the form of a loan.

The money is viewed as crucial by Kyiv, as it grinds toward the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But Senate passage would send the bill on to the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, where it faces an uncertain future.

Democratic President Joe Biden, who has been seeking the aid for months, on Friday said Congress would be guilty of “neglect” if it failed to pass the measure.

The bill could move more quickly if Democrats and Republicans reach an agreement to fast-track the measure. But no such deal has emerged so far.

It includes $61 billion for Ukraine, $14 billion for Israel in its war against Hamas and $4.83 billion to support partners in the Indo-Pacific, including Taiwan, and deter aggression by China.

It also would provide $9.15 billion in humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza and the West Bank, Ukraine and other conflict zones around the globe.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, who has a slim 219-212 Republican majority, has indicated that he could try to split the aid provisions into separate measures once the bill arrives from the Senate.

But a standalone aid bill for Israel fell victim in the House last week to opposition from Democrats who favor the broader Senate legislation and from hardline Republicans who wanted compensating spending cuts, in a pair of humiliating defeats for Johnson.

During a visit to Kyiv on Friday, a bipartisan delegation of House lawmakers vowed to do their part to pass the measure.

Senate Republicans believe bipartisan passage would help stir support among Republicans in the House.

“It will shape the environment such that … more Republicans will feel comfortable advancing the bill,” Senator Todd Young, an Indiana Republican, told reporters.

Republican support for the measure could grow and the pace of progress could quicken if Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and his Republican counterpart, Mitch McConnell, can reach an agreement allowing votes on Republican amendments.

Republicans want amendments that could address the record flow of migrants across the US-Mexico border and forgo humanitarian assistance provisions by restricting foreign aid to weapons and materiel.

But some Republicans who oppose further aid to Ukraine have vowed to delay consideration by forcing the Senate to comply with a labyrinth of time-consuming parliamentary rules.

(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Mary Milliken and Lisa Shumaker)

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