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Ukraine aid and a potential TikTok ban: What’s in the House’s new $95 billion bill

It heads to the Senate this week, and could soon be law.

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After months of uncertainty, Congress greenlit a $95 billion package with substantial aid for Ukraine, as well as funds for Israel and US allies in the Indo-Pacific region.

It’s one of the most significant bills to pass in months, and follows weeks of intense GOP infighting about the wisdom of sending more money to Ukraine as its war with Russia enters its third year. Ukraine is heavily dependent on US aid, and its leaders have argued that American money will be critical to break the impasse the country is in amid tenacious Russian attacks.

The bill is also a strong signal of support for Israel as global and domestic outcry has grown regarding the country’s attacks in Gaza and the humanitarian crisis there. And, it contains two elements meant to target China’s power: military funding for Asian allies — including Taiwan — as well as a measure banning TikTok in the US if the app’s China-based owner, ByteDance, does not divest it.

All four measures advanced with bipartisan support in both chambers, though a sizable number of House Republicans balked at approving more support for Ukraine. Similarly, progressives in the House and Senate opposed providing more funding for Israel, highlighting the enduring foreign policy divides in both parties.

What’s in this package

In total, the package contains four bills meant to assist key allies with their military efforts, while also deterring China and Russia.

Ukraine aid: The bulk of this aid package — $61 billion — is dedicated to helping Ukraine counter Russia’s ongoing military offensive. These funds include $14 billion aimed at replenishing Ukraine’s weapons and ammunition, $13 billion to restock US military supplies that have previously been sent over, and $9 billion in forgivable loans for other rebuilding efforts, including infrastructure.

This measure passed 311-112 in the House, with only Republicans voting against it, and provides long-awaited funds to Ukraine as Russia has made territorial gains. The four bills were also approved as one package in the Senate, advancing 79-18, with two Democrats, one independent, and 15 Republicans voting against it.

Support for Ukraine has prompted backlash from far-right Republicans, who argue these funds would be better spent domestically at the southern border. As a result of this vote, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) has threatened to call for Speaker Mike Johnson’s removal when the House returns from recess.

Israel aid: There’s $26 billion in the measure dedicated to aid related to the Israel-Gaza conflict, including $13 billion to bolster Israel’s military capabilities and US stockpiles that have been depleted due to material transfers, and $9 billion for humanitarian aid for Gaza and other places around the world.

This measure passed 366-58 in the House, and signals that the US will continue to boost Israel’s military resources despite some lawmakers’ concerns about violence and famine in Gaza. More than 30 progressive Democrats opposed this bill and a handful of far-right Republicans did the same. Progressives have been vocal about the need for an immediate ceasefire and have spoken out against sending more money to arm Israel due to the casualties and humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Aid to Indo-Pacific allies: About $8 billion in the aid package is focused on helping US allies in the Indo-Pacific region, including Taiwan, boost their military capabilities. There’s roughly $6 billion dedicated to deterrence, which includes building out stronger submarine infrastructure in the region.

This measure passed the House 385-34 and comes as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has put a new spotlight on Taiwan and the question of whether the Chinese government would one day invade it. Of the three aid bills, this one received the most bipartisan support, with just roughly three dozen Republicans voting against it.

REPO Act and sanctions: A fourth bill, which contains provisions of the REPO Act, would allow the US to transfer seized Russian assets to Ukraine, which it could use for reconstruction. It also imposes harsher sanctions on Russia, Iran, and China. TikTok bill: A TikTok “ban” is also included in this fourth bill. That measure requires ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, to sell the app within nine months or risk getting banned from operations in the US.

This fourth bill passed the House 360-58 and had about 30 progressives and 20 far-right Republicans opposed. The REPO Act and TikTok measures were an attempt to add some concessions for Republicans reluctant to back Ukraine aid who’ve raised national security concerns about the app in the past.

Why this is such a big deal

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy enthusiastically welcomed the House’s actions, calling them “vital” and claiming they will save “thousands and thousands of lives.”

Military leaders and foreign policy experts have emphasized that US aid to Ukraine has been central to its ability to hold off Russia and will be critical if Ukraine is to counter a potential summer offensive. Since the war began, the US has sent Ukraine roughly $111 billion in aid. In recent months, Ukraine has been running low on ammunition and material needed for its air defenses, as Russia has made more inroads. “Make no mistake: without US aid, Ukraine is likely to lose the war,” Max Boot, a military historian and fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, has written.

The Ukraine bill was a sharp reminder of the divides in the Republican Party, with more moderate and classically conservative members supporting aid and some far-right members calling for a more isolationist stance.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, for instance, heralded the bill’s passage and criticized former Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson for sowing opposition to Ukraine. “The demonization of Ukraine began by Tucker Carlson, who in my opinion ended up where he should have been all along, which is interviewing Vladimir Putin,” McConnell said in a press briefing.

Far-right Republicans, like Greene, however, have been incensed by the approval of the bill, and vowed to keep on pushing for Johnson’s removal, the same threat that was once employed against former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

After the House returns from its current recess, Johnson could face additional calls to vacate from those on the right, though some Democrats have signaled that they could save him. Should Johnson lose his gavel, the House would, once again, have to navigate the chaos of another speaker’s race as it did last year.

The aid to Israel is notable in that it comes as Democratic support for a ceasefire has grown as more than 34,000 people have been killed in Gaza.

Overall, Israel aid remains an ongoing flash point for Democrats, with progressives calling out the Biden administration’s willingness to provide this support without strings attached. In recent months, the Democratic-led White House has taken an at times contradictory stance, offering critiques of Israel’s offensive while simultaneously funding it.

“To give Netanyahu more offensive weapons at this stage, I believe, is to condone the destruction of Gaza that we’ve seen in the last six months. And it’s also a green light for an invasion of Rafah,” Rep. Becca Balint (D-VT), a Jewish lawmaker who has called for a ceasefire, told the New York Times last week.

Many of the issues raised by this package are enduring ones. Ukraine will need more support from the US down the line as Russia maintains its attacks, and Republican divides are expected to persist. It’s possible Israel could seek more funding too, as its war continues, and that tensions inherent in the US’s current position toward the country will continue.

And the TikTok measure isn’t necessarily the end of the dispute over what to do about the app, either. As Vox’s Nicole Narea has explained, TikTok intends to challenge the policy in court on the grounds that it threatens people’s free speech.

Update, April 24, 1:30 pm ET: This story was originally published on April 21 and has been updated to include a Senate vote on this bill.

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Pakistan

PM seeks business community’s help for development

Prime Minister said that the government's job is not to run the industry but to give policy.

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Karachi: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif sought help from businessmen in the development of Pakistan.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, while addressing the federal and provincial cabinet meeting in Karachi, asked for help from the businessmen and on this occasion, he also assured to make privatization transparent for the development of Pakistan.

In this regard, the Prime Minister said that the government's job is not to run the industry but to give policy. Pakistan has been left behind in the race of development; it has to be taken forward. We have to break the poverty line, there are mountains of debt and we are buried under the burden of it.

On the other hand, well-known businessman Arif Habib proposed to the Prime Minister to improve relations with neighboring countries including India and talk with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) founder Imran Khan.

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Regional

Rains forecast in 24 districts of Balochistan till April 27

Another western rain system has entered Balochistan under which moderate to heavy rain is expected in 24 districts.

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Quetta: Heavy rains have been predicted in most districts of Balochistan starting from today (Thursday).

Another western rain system has entered Balochistan under which moderate to heavy rain is expected in 24 districts of the province from today to April 27.

Due to the rain, there is a risk of flooding in rivers while fishermen in Pisni and other coastal areas have been prevented from going into the sea today.

On the other hand, according to the Meteorological Department, there is a possibility of wind, thunder and rain in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, South Punjab and Upper Sindh today.

Meanwhile, rain is also expected in Gilgit-Baltistan and Kashmir.

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