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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Here’s what’s in the foreign aid package that just became law

People who stand in solidarity with Ukraine wave flags and hold signs outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, on Tuesday, April 23, 2024. President Joe Biden signed a $95.3 billion package of aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan on Wednesday, reaffirming U.S. support for Ukraine in the fight against Russia’s military assault after months of congressional gridlock. (Kenny Holston/The New York Times)

By Robert Jimison

The Senate on Tuesday approved a $95.3 billion foreign aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan that had been stalled for months.

The legislation, a version of which passed the Senate in February with bipartisan support, passed 79-18, reflecting widespread backing in both parties.

To steer around opposition from right-wing Republicans in the House, Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., used a convoluted plan to pass it over the weekend. He broke the package into three pieces for each of the countries — allowing different coalitions to back each one — and added a fourth bill that includes a new round of sanctions on Iran and a measure to require the sale of TikTok by its Chinese owner or ban it in the United States. After passage, all four were folded together into one bill and sent to the Senate.

Final approval by the Senate sent it to President Joe Biden, who signed it into law Wednesday.

Here is what the foreign aid package contains:

$60.8 billion for Ukraine

Military funding for Ukraine makes up the largest piece of the package, totaling $60.8 billion. A sizable amount is set aside to “replenish American defense stockpiles” and it grants billions for the purchase of U.S. defense systems, which Ukrainian officials have said for months are badly needed.

The bill closely mirrors the original Senate package, but the House added a requirement for the Biden administration to send more American-made missiles known as long-range ATACMS to Ukraine. The United States previously supplied Ukraine with a cluster-munition version of the missiles, after Biden overcame his long-standing reluctance to providing the weapons and permitted the Pentagon to deliver them covertly.

Another provision included by the House directs the president to seek repayment of $10 billion in economic assistance, a concept supported by former President Donald Trump, who has pushed for any aid to Ukraine to be in the form of a loan. But it also allows the president to forgive those loans starting in 2026.

$26.4 billion for Israel and aid for palestinians

The bill sends roughly $15 billion in military aid to Israel as the country continues its offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip and weighs a response to attacks from Iran. It prioritizes defensive capabilities, providing more than $5 billion to replenish the Iron Dome, David’s Sling and Iron Beam defense systems. An additional $2.4 billion is directed to current U.S. military operations in the region.

Another $9 billion goes to “worldwide humanitarian aid,” including for civilians in Gaza. Like the original Senate bill, the package bars funding from going to UNRWA, the main United Nations agency that provides aid to Palestinians in Gaza. It does not put any conditions on military aid, a sticking point for some left-wing Democrats who have become more vocal in their calls to force the Israeli government to modify its military tactics in Gaza.

$8.1 Billion for Taiwan and Other Allies

A third piece provides $8.1 billion in aid for Taiwan and other U.S. allies in the Indo-Pacific region to counter China. The House attached a provision that allows the Pentagon to quickly provide Taiwan with more offensive weapons and provides billions more for the purchase of advanced U.S. weapons technology as the U.S. and Taiwanese governments continue to build up their alliances to deter China from invading the island.

A sweetener bill

A fourth part of the package, added by the House, includes several Republican priorities that Johnson cobbled together to make the aid package more palatable to members of his party.

One piece redirects funds from seized Russian assets to offset U.S. aid to Ukraine. Republicans who back the plan say it will ensure that Russia President Vladimir Putin is held financially accountable for the war.

U.S. allies, including France and Germany, have been skeptical about the viability of such a move under international law. They have instead been pushing for a solution that uses the proceeds on the interest from the nearly $300 billion of frozen Russian assets to give to Ukraine directly, either in the form of loans or as collateral to borrow money.

The bill also imposes sanctions on Iranian and Russian officials and further limit the export of U.S. technology used to make Iranian drones.

And it includes legislation to force the parent company of TikTok, the popular social media app, to sell the platform or face a ban in the United States. It mirrors a bill that the House passed last month. But it includes an option to extend the deadline for a sale to nine months from the original six, and allows the president to extend it for another 90 days if progress toward a sale is being made.

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