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News / Northwest

Northwest lawmakers help Congress pass $95 billion package to aid Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan — and force the sale of TikTok

By Orion Donovan Smith, The Spokesman-Review
Published: April 24, 2024, 7:45am

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Tuesday passed a sweeping $95 billion national security bill that includes long-delayed aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, along with humanitarian aid for Palestinians, sanctions on Iran and measures that could lead to a U.S. ban of TikTok if its Chinese parent company doesn’t sell the popular app.

The Senate had passed a similar bill in February, but that legislation stalled in the lower chamber amid opposition to Ukraine aid from former President Donald Trump and most House Republicans. Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., broke the impasse by relying on Democrats to help clear the way Friday for separate votes on the legislation’s components, which passed Saturday with support from most Northwest lawmakers.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said on Tuesday she was glad to see the legislation emerge from the House, calling it “materially identical” to the original package that she helped craft as chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. That earlier bill didn’t include the language to force the sale of TikTok, which was borrowed from a bill the House passed in March.

“At a time when the world is watching and wondering if the U.S. is still capable of meeting the challenges before us, if we are still united enough to meet them, this package won’t just send aid — it will send a message,” Murray said in a speech on the Senate floor. “It will show our allies that our word is still good, and we will stand by them in times of need.”

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Idaho GOP Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch also voted for the package, which passed by a vote of 79-18. In the House, the separate votes exposed rifts in both parties but allowed different coalitions to provide the two-thirds majority needed to advance the legislation on an expedited basis.

All 10 of Washington’s House lawmakers voted to send more than $60 billion to Ukraine, including GOP Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Spokane and Dan Newhouse of Sunnyside. Rep. Russ Fulcher, who represents North Idaho, was among the 112 Republicans — a slight majority of the party — who opposed that part of the legislation, but every Democrat present voted for it. Following Trump’s suggestion that U.S. support to Ukraine come in the form of a loan, $9 billion of the aid is in “forgivable loans.”

“As the Russian government issues threats against free nations, I am proud to have supported the aid package to protect against these authoritarians that threaten the free world,” Newhouse said in a statement, linking the support for Israel, Ukraine and other U.S. allies. “This is a step that strengthens America’s place on the world stage and gives our allies around the world the upper hand against those that wish us harm.”

The second-biggest part of the funding, about $26 billion, is dedicated to supporting Israel and providing humanitarian relief to civilians in Gaza. That component drew the support of all but 21 Republicans and 37 Democrats. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, was the only Washington lawmaker to vote against it, while Fulcher and Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho Falls, backed the measure.

About $8 billion will go to U.S. allies in the Indo-Pacific, including Taiwan, to counter China’s influence in the region. That measure drew even wider support, with Fulcher one of just 34 Republicans voting against it. No Democrat opposed that funding, most of which will go to developing submarines and replenishing stocks of weapons the United States has provided to its allies.

The fourth piece of legislation to pass the House includes provisions to force ByteDance, the China-based parent company of TikTok, to sell the massively popular social media platform or face a de facto ban in the United States. It would also authorize the president to seize Russian assets held in U.S. banks and use them to fund reconstruction in Ukraine, along with sanctions on fentanyl traffickers, as well as Iran and its proxies, including Hamas in Gaza. Jayapal and Rep. Rick Larsen of Everett were among 33 Democrats who opposed those measures, along with 25 Republicans.

A fifth piece of legislation, virtually identical to a border security bill House Republicans passed in 2023, fell short of the two-thirds vote needed to be added to the package despite the support of every Republican and five Democrats, including Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Pérez of southwest Washington.

In a statement explaining his votes on Saturday, Fulcher accused the Biden administration of wanting “an open border,” although the president said in January that he would “shut down the border right now” if Congress passed a bipartisan bill that House Republicans sank in February after their Senate counterparts negotiated it.

“This is a refusal to enforce American law and has resulted in homeland security threats, illicit drug and human trafficking, and entitlements to illegals on a horrific scale,” Fulcher said. “Most Americans understand that in order to help other nations, we must be healthy ourselves. It’s Americans that we serve first. Due to our $34 trillion debt load, sending aid to allies and foreign nations must be assessed on an individualized basis.”

Biden has indicated he will sign the legislation quickly. It doesn’t include spending cuts, tax increases or other measures to pay for the spending. But in a statement Saturday, McMorris Rodgers said, “Peace through strength comes at a cost, and it’s one our nation has always been willing to pay. American leadership matters, which is why we continued that honorable tradition today and sent a clear message to our adversaries in the process: America is not backing down.”

“The United States of America has a moral obligation to lead with clarity on the world stage, not only when it’s convenient, but when it’s difficult,” she said. “This emergency aid package will provide our allies around the globe — Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan — with the military and humanitarian assistance they need to confront evil and prevail in their fight for freedom and self determination.”

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