US House speaker blasts aid deal for Israel, Ukraine as Senate backs bill

Republican Mike Johnson says the bill does not address the ‘most pressing’ issue of security at the US-Mexico border.

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson has criticised a proposed military aid package for US allies including Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan [Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters]

United States House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson has cast doubt on the fate of a $95.3bn aid package for countries including Ukraine and Israel as the Senate voted to advance the legislation aimed at reassuring Washington’s allies.

Johnson, the top Republican in the House, said the Senate had “failed to meet the moment” by not addressing security on the US-Mexico border, which he described as the “most pressing issue facing our country”.

“The mandate of national security supplemental legislation was to secure America’s own border before sending additional foreign aid around the world,” Johnson said in a statement on Monday. “It is what the American people demand and deserve.”

Johnson previously said that an earlier version of the bill would be “dead on arrival” as curbs it placed on unauthorised migration did not go far enough.

Last week, a majority of Senate Republicans voted to kill a bipartisan bill that included the most comprehensive immigration reforms in years amid opposition by former President Donald Trump, who has led his party to adopt more sceptical stances towards immigration and intervention overseas.

After stripping out the immigration provisions from the legislation, the Democratic-led Senate on Monday voted 66-33 to bring the military aid package closer to a final vote that could come as soon as Wednesday.

Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer said the deal reflected “our security, our values, our democracy” and would be a “down payment for the survival of Western democracy and the survival of Western values”.

“The entire world is going to remember what the Senate does in the next few days,” Schumer said.

US President Joe Biden has urged Congress to quickly approve additional military aid for Ukraine, Israel and Asia Pacific allies including Taiwan.

Conservative Republicans in the House have resisted Biden’s calls, insisting on measures to tackle “illegal” immigration at the southern border and questioning the need to continue support for Ukraine.

Senator JD Vance, an Ohio Republican, on Monday blasted the push to support Ukraine as a “fetish”.

“There are some Republicans for whom Ukraine is the most important issue confronting the country,” Vance said in an interview with former Trump adviser Steve Bannon.

“And I just say, even if you’re pro Ukraine funding, and obviously I’m not, don’t we have 10 more important issues confronting this nation, between the border problem, the debt problem? Why are we so obsessed with this?”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies