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After battle with Republicans, Biden to sign Ukraine aid package

After battle with Republicans, Biden to sign Ukraine aid package
US President Joe Biden disembarks Marine One after landing on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 23 April 2024. President Biden returned to Washington after attending two campaign events in Tampa Florida. EPA-EFE/Ting Shen / POOL

President Joe Biden will sign a bill into law on Wednesday that provides billions of dollars of new aid to Ukraine for its war with Russia, a bipartisan victory for the president as he seeks re-election and a boost to allies who have looked to Washington to support Kiev.

Biden, a Democrat who is expected to face Republican former President Donald Trump, a Ukraine aid skeptic, in the November election, has pressed lawmakers for six months to approve more funding for Ukraine, which has been fighting a full-scale Russian invasion for more than two years.

Despite bipartisan support, a proposed package of aid idled amid opposition mostly from Republicans closely tied to Trump.

That ended when the Republican-controlled House of Representatives abruptly changed course and approved four bills that included funding for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and other U.S. partners in the Indo-Pacific on Saturday.

Biden and House Speaker Mike Johnson held intense talks about Ukraine in February and the president has both pleaded with Republicans to back the package and scolded them for not doing so. Johnson, who faces calls by some right-leaning Republicans to oust him for his turnaround on aid, met with Trump in Florida earlier this month; the former president said Johnson was “doing a really good job.”

The U.S. Senate followed the House on Tuesday evening, passing a sweeping bill that provides $61 billion in aid to the country, which has suffered setbacks in the war that supporters blame on the delay in getting the additional U.S. funding.

“Congress has passed my legislation to strengthen our national security and send a message to the world about the power of American leadership: we stand resolutely for democracy and freedom, and against tyranny and oppression,” Biden said in a statement after the Senate vote on Tuesday.

He said he would sign the bill on Wednesday.

Heather Conley, an expert on European affairs, said the victory for U.S. allies and for Biden was tempered by effects that the delay has had for Kiev on the battlefield.

“This is a strong message of American leadership at a time of enormous instability, but the delay created cracks in that credibility,” said Conley, president of the German Marshall Fund of the United States. “As we start rolling into the election, that credibility will continue to be under close scrutiny.”

Biden has argued that he helped restore U.S. credibility on the world stage after Trump’s tumultuous 4-year tenure, in part by strengthening the NATO alliance and providing a united front against Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump has argued for an “America First” policy and has threatened to let NATO allies fend for themselves if they do not increase their defense spending.

Biden’s administration is already preparing a $1 billion military aid package for Ukraine, the first to be sourced from the bill, two U.S. officials told Reuters.

Republicans who backed the aid package said it was not a vote for Biden but a reflection of their party’s values.

“Peace through strength. That’s our tradition,” Senator Dan Sullivan, a Republican from Alaska, said in a Senate speech. “To my Republican colleagues and friends in the Senate, our tradition is much more serious. It’s prouder. And I will tell you this: It’s much more supported by the American people. Peace through strength, not American retreat.”

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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