US Congress to vote on aid for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan: What’s the deal?

United States lawmakers are expected to vote on Saturday evening on three military aid packages for Ukraine, Israel and other allies in the Asia Pacific region.

The three bills are part of Speaker Mike Johnson’s complex strategy to get aid out to foreign allies while quelling a rebellion by hardline Republicans who would prefer to see cash spent at home on border security measures and are prepared to boot him out of his job to get their way.

For months, Johnson has rejected calls from the White House and much of Congress to allow a vote on a divisive $95bn foreign aid bill passed by the Senate back in February. Meanwhile, as extremists in his party fixate on the southern border, external conflicts have reached a tipping point.

Ukraine, which has been fending off Russia’s full-scale invasion for the past two years, is running out of ammunition. US military top commanders have warned that the country will be outgunned by 10 to one within weeks. The issue of security aid was given added urgency by Iran’s counterattack on Israel last weekend following an Israeli air strike on Iran’s embassy compound in Damascus, with calls to help America’s top ally in the Middle East bolster its air defence systems. On Thursday night, it was reported that Iran had fired air defence batteries to shoot down three drones over Isfahan.

Feeling the pressure, the speaker has now come up with a multi-pronged approach that would see three separate votes on partitioned bills, which largely mirror the Senate-passed package, allocating $60.84bn in long-delayed aid to Ukraine, just over $26bn for Israel and about $8bn for Asia Pacific allies – Taiwan, in the main – to counter Chinese expansionism.

The stage has been set for a showdown. Here’s everything you need to know about the bills and the dynamics of the upcoming vote.

What was the problem with the first bill?

Congress has been in gridlock over aid to Ukraine for months.

Steered by presidential contender and Ukraine-aid sceptic Donald Trump, “America-first” hardliners have long complained about the billions spent on Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion in February 2022. They insist that any foreign aid proposals be paired with US border security reforms.

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump talks with Maj. Gen. Thomas Suelzer, Adjutant General for the State of Texas, at Shelby Park during a visit to the US-Mexico border, Thursday, February 29, 2024
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump talks with Major General Thomas Suelzer, adjutant general for the State of Texas, at Shelby Park during a visit to the US-Mexico border, on February 29, 2024, in Eagle Pass, Texas [Eric Gay/AP Photo]

But a resulting compromise bill bundling together border security and foreign aid tanked in February after Trump urged Senate Republicans to block it, claiming that measures cracking down on illegal crossings over the US-Mexico border, hailed by some as the tightest ever seen, weren’t strong enough. “Please blame it on me,” he said at the time.

That same month, the Senate passed an amended package without the border provisions. Johnson, himself a deeply conservative Republican right winger, immediately pledged not to bring it to the floor. Aid proposals were consequently stalled until this week when he came up with a new strategy to push separate bills.

Why the change of heart? Allison McManus, a managing director at the Center for American Progress, a DC-based liberal think tank, said Johnson had undergone “a genuine evolution”.

“Prior to becoming speaker, he was more aligned with an ideological position. But his time in the leadership role has come with a growing awareness of the benefits of US support for Ukraine,” she told Al Jazeera.

Are the new bills any different?

Not much has changed in the new-look bills.

Ukraine is still the big sticking point, Trump having denounced previous assistance as a “giveaway”. To assuage conservative concerns, the $9bn allocated to the war-torn country as economic assistance would now be in the form of “forgivable loans”, a strategy that Johnson claims has been endorsed by Trump.

Seeking to convince recalcitrant Republicans, the new package would also require the Biden administration to present lawmakers with a “multiyear” plan within 45 days of the bill being signed into law, laying out clear strategic aims in Ukraine and an estimate of the resources required.

FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian servicemen of the 28th Separate Mechanized Brigade fire a 120-mm mortar towards Russian troops at a frontline
Ukrainian servicemen of the 28th Separate Mechanised Brigade fire a 120mm mortar towards Russian troops amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, near the town of Bakhmut, Ukraine, on March 15, 2024 [Oleksandr Ratushniak/Reuters]

When it comes to Israel, some conservatives will baulk at the $9.2bn in humanitarian aid for Gaza, which was also contained in the previous bill passed by the Senate. “That could be a potential stumbling block,” Chris Tuttle, a DC-based senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), told Al Jazeera.

Democrats demanded the aid element was necessary as a condition for their support. However, an increasing number of progressives oppose any funding that will enable Israel to pursue its onslaught on the Gaza Strip, where nearly 34,000 people have been killed, thousands more are lost and feared dead under the rubble and the 2.3 million population is facing starvation and outbreaks of disease.

The reasons for breaking up the package into parts are simple, say experts. “We know there is a faction on the right that is vehemently opposed to aid for Ukraine. We also know there’s a growing faction on the left that is opposed to continuing aid to Israel,” said McManus.

“Together those two factions presented enough opposition to block it from moving forward. If you separate them, then you have small factions that are easier to overcome.”

What’s in the different aid bills?


The first new funding approved by Congress since Republicans took control of the House in early 2023, it would give Ukraine $60.84bn to fend off Russia’s invasion, bringing total US investment in the conflict to $170bn, if passed.

Funding includes:

  • $23.2bn for replenishing US weapons, stocks and facilities
  • $11.3bn for US training of Ukrainian troops
  • $13.8bn for the purchase of advanced weapons systems
  • $26m for “oversight and accountability” of aid to Ukraine
  • $9bn in repayable economic assistance


The bill would allocate $26.38bn to “support Israel in its effort to defend itself against Iran and its proxies”, as well as reimbursing US military operations in response to recent attacks.

It stipulates that funding for the UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA is prohibited. Last month, Congress approved a funding bill banning assistance for the United Nations agency until 2025, following Israeli allegations – reportedly obtained under torture – that employees participated in the October 7 Hamas attack.

Funding includes:

  • $5.2bn to replenish and expand Israel’s missile and rocket defence system
  • $3.5bn for purchasing advanced weapons systems
  • $1bn to enhance weapons production
  • $4.4bn for other supplies and services to Israel
  • $9.2bn in humanitarian aid
Israeli army withdraws from northern Nasirat Camp
Palestinians living in Nuseirat refugee camp collect usable items among the rubble of destroyed buildings after Israel’s withdrawal from the camp in Deir el-Balah, Gaza, on April 18, 2024 [Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency]

Asia Pacific

The smallest of the three bills would provide $8.12bn for Asia Pacific allies “to counter communist China and ensure a strong deterrence in the region”.

Funding includes:

  • $3.3bn for developing submarine infrastructure
  • $2bn in foreign military financing for Taiwan and other allies

A fourth bill, which will be voted on the same day, contains separate foreign policy proposals on seizing Russian assets, forcing a sale of the social media platform, TikTok (because of worries that the Chinese government may be able to access information about its US users) and imposing sanctions on Iran, Russia, China and criminal organisations that traffic the drug, fentanyl.

How have lawmakers responded to the proposed bills?

The right-wing US Representative for Georgia’s 14th congressional district, Marjorie Taylor Greene, who last month filed a so-called “motion to vacate” to remove Johnson from his post – the same mechanism that felled his predecessor Kevin McCarthy – accused Johnson of failing to pursue a Republican agenda and of being “tossed around the room like some kind of party toy”.

Posting on X, the US Representative for Virginia’s fifth congressional district, Bob Good, also chair of the far-right congressional bloc, the House Freedom Caucus, called for “every true conservative” to vote against the rule for this borrowed foreign aid bill with no border security” [The quote ends at security — where does it begin?].

US Representative for Texas’s 21st congressional district, Chip Roy, also policy chair of the House Freedom Caucus, said on X that he was “sorry not sorry for opposing a crappy rule that is a show vote / cover vote for funding Ukraine instead of border security”.

“The Republican Speaker of the House is seeking a rule to pass almost $100bn in foreign aid – while unquestionably, dangerous criminals, terrorists [and] fentanyl pour across our border,” he said in a separate post.

Desperate to rally the divided party, which has a slim 218 to 213 majority in Congress, Johnson’s office has been trumpeting support from Republican governors and conservative and religious leaders.

“Enough is enough,” said Georgia Governor Brian Kemp on social media, urging House Republicans to do their “job and vote on the important issues facing our nation” instead of “bickering amongst themselves”.

Will the bills pass?

Johnson’s fate seems tied to that of his foreign aid bills.

Without the backing of all his party, the speaker will be dependent on votes from Democrats as he executes his plan to form unique voting blocs on each separate bill before sewing the lot back together again for Senate approval.

Given his increasingly precarious position, commentators say it is in his interests to keep those Democrats on side. “He’s making a wager that if he is able to push bills that Democrats are in favour of, then this might give him some goodwill,” said McManus.

Meanwhile, Greene has been dangling the threat of Johnson’s removal ahead of the vote, saying she doesn’t mind if “Speaker’s office becomes a revolving door” – it’s been little more than six months since his predecessor, Kevin McCarthy, was removed in a spectacular takedown that left Republicans winded.

But Democrats like New York’s Hakeem Jeffries and Florida’s Jared Moskowitz have suggested they would help Johnson if his own party moves against him for holding the votes.

“The Democrats are saying: ‘You know, I’m willing to vote to retain him, even though he’s not in my party because he had the courage to do the right thing’,” said CFR’s Tuttle.

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