Senate passes $95 billion foreign aid bill, measure that could lead to TikTok ban

The bill also addresses TikTok's future.

The Senate on Tuesday passed a spending bill that will provide billions in aid to Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan, plus took the first steps to require the owner of the social media platform TikTok to either sell the company or face a ban in the US.

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The bill passed 79-18 and now heads to President Joe Biden’s desk where he will sign the legislation into law, according to The Associated Press.

The majority of the $95 billion package will go to aid Ukraine which will see $61 billion in military aid, which the Pentagon says can start being delivered “within days.”

The funding includes roughly $26 billion for Israel and $8 billion for Taiwan and Indo-Pacific security.

Congressional leaders praised the passage of the measure Tuesday that was first proposed in October.

“The relentless work of six long months has paid off,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the Senate floor following an earlier procedural vote.

“Make no mistake, America will deliver on its promise to act like a leader on the world stage, to hold the line against autocratic thugs like Vladimir Putin,” he continued. “We are showing Putin that betting against America is always, always a grave mistake.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said he believes the vote shows that members of the Republican party are beginning to back away from an isolationist position that has been strong in its ranks in recent years.

“If you’re looking for a trend I think it’s a trend in the direction that I would like to see us go, which is America steps up to its leadership role in the world and does what it needs to do,” McConnell said in a news conference following a procedural vote on the bill earlier on Tuesday.

“I think we’ve turned the corner on this argument,” he said, adding, “I think we’ve turned the corner on the isolationist movement. I’ve noticed how uncomfortable proponents of that are when you call them isolationists. I think we’ve made some progress and I think it’s going to have to continue.”

Ukrainian president Volodymr Zelenskiy said Tuesday that he is “grateful to the United States Senate for approving vital aid to Ukraine today”.

In a social media post on X, formally Twitter, Zelenskiy thanked Schumer and McConnell for “their strong leadership in advancing this bipartisan legislation.” He also thanked “all US Senators on both sides of the aisle who voted in favor of it.”

The vote Tuesday came weeks after the Senate passed a similar aid package in February that House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-Louisiana, effectively tabled for weeks.

Despite threats to his speakership from within his own party, Johnson decided to end the stalemate on the foreign aid last week and introduced the bill as four separate bills – aid for Ukraine, aid for Israel, aid for Taiwan and a measure aimed at divesting TikTok – letting House members vote separately on each bill, The New York Times reported.

All four bills passed and were combined in the bill the Senate took up Tuesday.

A part of the legislation that has sparked as much debate as aid to Ukraine is the measure that would force Chinese TikTok parent company ByteDance to sell the social media platform within nine months or face a national ban of the app.

“It is unfortunate that the House of Representatives is using the cover of important foreign and humanitarian assistance to once again jam through a ban bill that would trample the free speech rights of 170 million Americans,” a TikTok spokesperson told Reuters Saturday following the House’s passage of the bill.

The company has said it would mount a legal challenge if the measure is signed into law.

TikTok has raised concerns among those in Congress and cybersecurity experts who fear the Chinese government could misuse TikTok’s vault of personal data collected on millions of U.S. users.

A provision of the TikTok measure would give Biden the authority to extend the time to sell the company from nine months to a year.

In addition to the aid to the three countries and the bill targeting TikTok, the legislation calls for confiscating Russian assets held by Western banks and new sanctions on Russia, Iran and China.

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