US House Advances $95 Billion Ukraine-Israel Package toward Saturday Vote

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) walks towards the House Chamber on Capitol Hill on April 19, 2024 in Washington, DC. (Getty Images via AFP)
Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) walks towards the House Chamber on Capitol Hill on April 19, 2024 in Washington, DC. (Getty Images via AFP)
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US House Advances $95 Billion Ukraine-Israel Package toward Saturday Vote

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) walks towards the House Chamber on Capitol Hill on April 19, 2024 in Washington, DC. (Getty Images via AFP)
Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) walks towards the House Chamber on Capitol Hill on April 19, 2024 in Washington, DC. (Getty Images via AFP)

The US House of Representatives advanced a $95 billion legislative package on Friday providing aid to Ukraine, Israel and the Indo-Pacific in a broad bipartisan vote, overcoming hardline Republican opposition that had held it up for months.

Friday's procedural vote, which passed 316-94 with more support from Democrats than the Republicans who hold a narrow majority, advanced a package similar to a measure that passed the Democratic-majority Senate in February.

Democratic President Joe Biden, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell and top House Democrat Hakeem Jeffries had been pushing for a House vote since then. Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson had held off in the face of opposition from a small but vocal segment of his party.

In addition to the aid for allies, the package includes a provision to transfer frozen Russian assets to Ukraine, and sanctions targeting Hamas and Iran and to force China's ByteDance to sell social media platform TikTok or face a ban in the US.

The legislation provides more than $95 billion in security assistance, including $9.1 billion for humanitarian aid, which Democrats had demanded.

If the House passes the measure, as expected, the Senate will need to follow suit to send it to Biden to sign into law.

Schumer on Friday told senators to be prepared to come back over the weekend if needed.

Some conservative lawmakers oppose aid to Ukraine, and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, has sent mixed messages about it.

Some Democrats also oppose certain provisions in the bill, notably on Israel aid, and had pushed for more conditions on that assistance. 



Taiwan Says China Drills More about Intimidation, Propaganda than Starting War

A man stands on a jetty behind a tourist boat and Chinese flags on Pingtan island, opposite Taiwan in China’s southeast Fujian province on Sunday. (AFP)
A man stands on a jetty behind a tourist boat and Chinese flags on Pingtan island, opposite Taiwan in China’s southeast Fujian province on Sunday. (AFP)
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Taiwan Says China Drills More about Intimidation, Propaganda than Starting War

A man stands on a jetty behind a tourist boat and Chinese flags on Pingtan island, opposite Taiwan in China’s southeast Fujian province on Sunday. (AFP)
A man stands on a jetty behind a tourist boat and Chinese flags on Pingtan island, opposite Taiwan in China’s southeast Fujian province on Sunday. (AFP)

China's military drills last week were more about propaganda and intimidation than starting a war, but Chinese forces did show how they could react quickly, Taiwan's top security official said on Wednesday.
China said it carried out the two days of war games starting Thursday as "punishment" for new President Lai Ching-te's inauguration speech last week, in which he said the two sides of the Taiwan Strait were "not subordinate to each other", which China viewed as a declaration the two are separate countries, Reuters said.
China views democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory and has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control. Lai rejects China's sovereignty claims, saying only Taiwan's people can decide their future, and has repeatedly offered talks with Beijing but been rebuffed.
Speaking to reporters at parliament, Taiwan National Security Bureau Director-General Tsai Ming-yen said the aim of China's drills was not to go to war.
"The purpose of the military exercises was to intimidate," he said.
The drills were meant to show an external and domestic audience that Beijing "has absolute control over the situation in the Taiwan Strait", Tsai added.
Speaking in Beijing, Zhu Fenglian, spokesperson for China's Taiwan Affairs Office, reiterated its list of complaints about Lai being a dangerous supporter of Taiwan's formal independence, and threatened continued Chinese military activity.
The drills were a "just action to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity", she said.
"As Taiwan's provocations for independence continue, the People's Liberation Army's actions to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity continue."
The government in Taipei says Taiwan is already an independent country, the Republic of China. The Republican government fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war with Mao Zedong's Communists who set up the People's Republic of China.
China says any decisions on Taiwan's future are for all of China's 1.4 billion people to make, not only Taiwan's 23 million, and has offered a Hong Kong-style "one country, two systems" autonomy model, though that has almost no public support on the island, according to opinion polls.
"Different systems are not an obstacle to reunification, let alone an excuse for separation," Zhu said.
China has never explained how it would integrate Taiwan's vibrant democracy and direct election of its leaders into any plan to govern the island.
China has in the past four years sent its military to areas around Taiwan on an almost daily basis, as it seeks to exert pressure on the island.
But China also appeared to be trying to keep the scope of these drills contained, Tsai's bureau said in a written report to lawmakers, noting there was no declaration of no-fly or no-sail zones and the exercises lasted only two days.
"The intention was to avoid the situation escalating and international intervention, but in the future it is feared (China) will continue its compound coercion against us, gradually changing the Taiwan Strait's status quo," it said.
Tsai added that Chinese forces mobilized almost as soon as China announced the drills early on Thursday.
"The speed was extremely fast, demonstrating rapid mobilization capabilities," he said.