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Senate Advances Aid for Israel, Ukraine, Taiwan, TikTok Bill

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., conducts a news conference after the senate luncheons in the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday, March 12, 2024. 

Tom Williams | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images

The Senate on Tuesday advanced a package to provide billions in aid to Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan, sending the legislation on a glide path to become law after a rocky six months of political battles.

Senators passed a crucial procedural vote with wide bipartisan support, signaling that the foreign aid package has the strength to pass a final vote. It also starts the senators’ final debate clock, which will run for up to 30 hours unless they agree to hold the final vote earlier and get back to their regularly scheduled recess.

“I ask my colleagues to join together to pass the supplemental today as expeditiously as possible,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the Senate floor Tuesday morning ahead of the vote. “Let us not delay this, let us not prolong this, let us not keep our friends around the world waiting for a moment longer.”

If the Senate officially passes the legislation in the final vote, it would then go to President Joe Biden, who already said he would sign it into law after the House passed the package as four separate bills on Saturday.

The funding includes roughly $60 billion for Ukraine aid, $26 billion for Israel and $8 billion for Taiwan and Indo-Pacific security.

Spending-wise, the legislation is similar to the $95 billion foreign aid bill passed by the Senate in February, which has been effectively shelved in the House in the weeks since.

But this bill also contains several other foreign policy proposals including a measure to force Chinese TikTok-parent company ByteDance to sell the social media platform or else face a national ban of the app. The provision would give ByteDance nine months to sell, though President Joe Biden could extend that timeline to a year.

TikTok has pushed back on this proposal since the House passed it over the weekend.

A source within the company said TikTok would pursue a “legal challenge” if the bill was signed into law, according to an internal memo obtained by NBC News.

“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 said Saturday following the House’s passage of the bill.

So far this year, TikTok and ByteDance have jointly spent over $7 million on lobbying and advertisements to prevent Congress from passing the legislation to force the sale, according to disclosure reports.

The foreign aid package has also been the subject of deep GOP infighting, a major reason that the legislation has been deadlocked on Capitol Hill since Biden first proposed it in October.

House Republicans like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., have threatened to oust House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., in part for passing this foreign aid, calling it a “total betrayal” on X. In March, she filed a motion to vacate the speaker but has yet to follow through on forcing a vote.

Those political threats, along with an increasingly razor-thin House Republican majority led Johnson to effectively table the Senate’s $95 billion foreign aid bill for weeks.

But Johnson decided to end the stalemate on the foreign aid last week following Iran’s attempted attack on April 13, after which the speaker faced renewed bipartisan pressure to move on the funding.

And despite Rep. Green’s threats, Johnson’s job has some insurance in the form of former President Donald Trump’s public support.

“Look, we have a majority of one, okay? It’s not like he can go and do whatever he wants to do. I think he’s a very good person,” Trump said in a radio interview on The John Fredericks Show on Monday evening. “I think he’s trying very hard.”

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