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US Senate passes $40bn aid package for Ukraine – live | US politics

US Senate approves $40bn in new aid to Ukraine

Joanna Walters

The US Senate has approved Joe Biden’s massive new military and humanitarian aid bill for Ukraine, with a huge bipartisan vote in favor of the package as allies boost the fight back against Russia’s invasion of its smaller neighbor.

The final vote moments ago was 86 in favor, 11 against. The vote had been expected last week until Kentucky rightwinger Rand Paul blocked it.

All 50 Democrats in the Senate and all but 11 Republicans supported the bill, which was larger than the original $33bn one first requested by Biden last month.

The US president is expected to sign the bill into law as soon as possible. Russia invaded Ukraine three months ago.

“Help is on the way, really significant help. Help that could make sure that the Ukrainians are victorious,” Senate majority leader and New York Democrat Chuck Schumer said.

Jessica Glenza

Jessica Glenza

Oklahoma’s Republican-led legislature just passed the nation’s strictest abortion ban, which allows citizens to sue anyone who “aids or abets” a woman in terminating a pregnancy. The ban begins at conception.

The law would take effect immediately if Republican governor Kevin Stitt signs the bill, which he is expected to do. It would allow litigants to sue for $10,000 and “emotional distress”.

Kevin Stitt.
Kevin Stitt. Photograph: Sue Ogrocki/AP

If the law goes into effect, it will make Oklahoma “the first state to successfully outlaw abortion and eliminate access while Roe v Wade is still standing,” according to a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood, and have profound effects for women in Texas.

Oklahoma’s total abortion ban is modeled after a six-week abortion ban first passed by Texas. There, the state passed a law to allow anyone, anywhere to sue those who “aid and abet” an abortion.

Texas’s law banned abortion at six weeks, which is before most women know they are pregnant. Consequently, thousands of Texan patients headed to Oklahoma seeking to terminate pregnancies.

Oklahoma then passed a similar six-week abortion ban. The bill being considered by Stitt would outlaw abortion from the moment an egg is fertilized, even before it implants in the uterus.

The right to obtain an abortion was established in the landmark 1973 supreme court decision Roe v Wade. The case provided a constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy up to the point a fetus can survive outside the womb.

In early May, a leaked draft opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito Jr, one of the court’s conservatives, showed a majority of justices considered reversing Roe v Wade outright. If they followed through with that draft decision, at least 26 US states would be certain or likely to ban abortion.

Thousands of patients in the Midwest and South would then be forced to seek care across state lines, sometimes traveling hundreds of miles. Perhaps as many as one-in-five, according to the estimates of one economist, would be forced to carry a pregnancy to term.

Here’s a heartwarming image that encapsulates the US Senate’s celebrated spirits of bipartisanship, camaraderie and mutual friendship: Democratic and Republican senators prepare to take lunch with Sweden’s prime minister Magdalena Andersson and Finland’s president Sauli Niinistö on Capitol Hill today.

The leaders held a closed-door meeting with the senators after their earlier summit with Joe Biden at the White House to discuss the Nordic nations’ historic application to join Nato.

Congressional leaders including Democratic senate majority leader Chuck Schumer and Republican senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, and a bipartisan group of senators, meet with Sweden’s prime minister Magdalena Andersson and Finland’s president Sauli Niinisto.
Congressional leaders including Democratic senate majority leader Chuck Schumer and Republican senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, and a bipartisan group of senators, meet with Sweden’s prime minister Magdalena Andersson and Finland’s president Sauli Niinisto. Photograph: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Interim summary

Time to take stock of developments so far today:

  • The US Senate has (finally) passed a $40bn package of military, economic and humanitarian aid for Ukraine. Andriy Yermak, chief of staff to Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy, says thank you, and predicts it will spur his country to victory.
  • Joe Biden says he’s “proud” to support applications by Finland and Sweden to join Nato, after meeting the countries’ leaders at the White House, saying their addition will strengthen the defense alliance. But Turkey says it can’t support the move.
  • The homeland security department has suspended the government’s troubled new disinformation board after the resignation of its director and a wave of Republican criticism.
  • Biden is on his way to Alaska, the staging post for his onward journey on Air Force One to Seoul and meetings with the leaders of South Korea and Japan in the coming days. We’ll hear from White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and national security adviser Jake Sullivan aboard the flight a little later.
  • The alleged white supremacist behind Saturday’s grocery store massacre in Buffalo, New York, made a brief court appearance this morning. House lawmakers have sent the domestic terrorism bill to the Senate, where it faces an uncertain fate.

Ukraine thanks US for $40bn aid, predicts victory

Joanna Walters

Joanna Walters

A top aide to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has thanked the US Senate after it approved nearly $40 billion in aid, saying this would help ensure the defeat of Russia, Reuters writes.
Andriy Yermak, chief of staff to Zelenskiy, posted praise online.

“Together we’ll win,” he tweeted.

Thanks US Senate for the historic decision to provide $40 billion aid package to 🇺🇦. Together, we’ll win.

— Andriy Yermak (@AndriyYermak) May 19, 2022

He also said:

We are moving towards victory confidently and strategically. We thank our allies.”

In addition, Group of Seven (G7) financial leaders have agreed on $18.4bn (£14.7bn) to help Ukraine and said they were ready to stand by Kyiv and “do more as needed”, according to a draft communique seen by Reuters.

Finance ministers and central bank governors of the US, Japan, Canada, Britain, Germany, France and Italy are holding talks as Ukraine is running out of cash.

G7 countries have “mobilised $18.4 billion of budget support, including $9.2 billion of recent commitments” in 2022, the draft said.

You can read more about this and all the news from the ground and Europe on the war in Ukraine in our global live blog on the crisis, here.

Joanna Walters

Joanna Walters

The Senate passing the $40bn aid bill for Ukraine with a richly bipartisan vote was a glaring exception to the partisan divisions that have hindered work on other issues under Biden.

They promise to become only less bridgeable as November’s elections for control of Congress draw closer, the Associated Press reports.

That includes Republicans blocking Democrats from including billions to combat the relentless pandemic in the measure, leaving their efforts to battle Covid-19 in limbo.

Last week the House approved the Ukraine bill 368-57, with all of those opposed Republicans. Though support in both chambers was unmistakably bipartisan, the GOP defections were noteworthy after Trump, still a potent force in the party, complained that such sums should first be targeted at domestic problems.

Senate Majority leader and New York Democrat Chuck Schumer said there could be yet more aid packages for Ukraine from the US.

They’re doing the fighting, they’re the ones getting killed, they’re the ones struggling and suffering. The least we can do is give them the weaponry they need,” he said.

Chuck Schumer on Capitol Hill today.
Chuck Schumer on Capitol Hill today. Photograph: Leah Millis/Reuters

Schumer called it “beyond troubling” that Republicans were opposing the Ukraine assistance.

It appears more and more that MAGA Republicans are on the same soft-on-Putin playbook that we saw used by former President Trump,” said Schumer, using the Make America Great Again acronym Democrats have been using to cast those Republicans as extremists.

Senate Minority leader and Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell, a strong backer of the measure, addressed concerns by his GOP colleagues, saying Ukraine’s defeat would jeopardize America’s European trading partners, increase US security costs there and embolden autocrats in China and elsewhere to grab territory in their regions.

The most expensive and painful thing America could possibly do in the long run would be to stop investing in sovereignty, stability and deterrence before it’s too late,” McConnell said.

Mitch McConnell, center, with House Speaker and Democrat Nancy Pelosi to his right and Kevin McCarthy, House minority leader, to his left, at an event on Capitol Hill yesterday.
Mitch McConnell, center, with House Speaker and Democrat Nancy Pelosi to his right and Kevin McCarthy, House minority leader, to his left, at an event on Capitol Hill yesterday. Photograph: Tom Brenner/Reuters

US Senate approves $40bn in new aid to Ukraine

Joanna Walters

Joanna Walters

The US Senate has approved Joe Biden’s massive new military and humanitarian aid bill for Ukraine, with a huge bipartisan vote in favor of the package as allies boost the fight back against Russia’s invasion of its smaller neighbor.

The final vote moments ago was 86 in favor, 11 against. The vote had been expected last week until Kentucky rightwinger Rand Paul blocked it.

All 50 Democrats in the Senate and all but 11 Republicans supported the bill, which was larger than the original $33bn one first requested by Biden last month.

The US president is expected to sign the bill into law as soon as possible. Russia invaded Ukraine three months ago.

“Help is on the way, really significant help. Help that could make sure that the Ukrainians are victorious,” Senate majority leader and New York Democrat Chuck Schumer said.

The Buffalo massacre will be “a catalyst” for legislation to combat hate crime against Blacks, according to the prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is representing the families of several of the 10 victims.

Crump says he’s also working with the Brady Center to achieve a reduction in gun violence in the US.

Ben Crump (right) comforts family members of Buffalo victim Ruth Whitfield at a press briefing on Monday.
Ben Crump (right) comforts family members of Buffalo victim Ruth Whitfield at a press briefing on Monday. Photograph: Brendan McDermid/Reuters

His office released a statement this morning announcing Crump will be representing the families of Buffalo victims Andre Mackneil and Geraldine Talley. He was already acting for the family of victim Ruth Whitfield.

Mackneil was killed as he was buying a cake for his son, whose third birthday was the day of the massacre. Talley was buying iced tea.

All three families will join Crump and veteran civil rights activist Al Sharpton at a press conference in Buffalo on Thursday afternoon.

Crump said:

I am honored to stand with these families in the face of such horror and hatred as we investigate and call for meaningful change to ensure no family has to feel such pain ever again.

I hope that one day soon these families will know their loved ones’ deaths were a catalyst for long overdue Black anti-hate crime legislation – and for that we demand swift action from our elected officials.

Gun reform legislation has stalled in the Senate amid opposition from Republicans. On Wednesday, the House passed the domestic terrorism bill including some gun reforms and new categories of offenses for some hate crimes.

It, too, faces substantial headwinds in the Senate.

US suspends troubled ‘disinformation’ panel

Information is coming in that the government’s new disinformation board is out.

The homeland security department has paused the work of the troubled panel and accepted the resignation of its director Nina Jankowicz.

Nina Jankowicz.
Nina Jankowicz. Photograph: United States Department of Homeland Security

She told the Associated Press hours after resigning on Wednesday that a wave of attacks and violent threats she has fielded since the board’s launch will not stop her from speaking out about disinformation campaigns pulsing through the social media feeds of Americans:

We need to have a grownup conversation about how to deal with threats to our national security and that’s not what happened here. I’m not going to be silenced.

It remains to be seen how the board’s disastrous rollout and ensuing criticism around it will damage ongoing US efforts to counter disinformation used as a weapon by Russia and other adversaries.

The homeland security secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, acknowledged the board’s controversy had become a distraction to the department’s other work, which includes safeguarding US elections, two officials familiar with his decision said.

While the board has not formally been closed down, it will be reviewed by members of a DHS advisory council that is expected to make recommendations in 75 days. The Washington Post first reported the board’s pause.

The department announced the formation of the Disinformation Governance Board on 27 April with the stated goal to “coordinate countering misinformation related to homeland security.”

Read more:

As Nancy Pelosi and Democratic lawmakers prepare to speak to the media about rising gun crime and domestic terrorism in the wake of the Buffalo massacre comes news of another multiple shooting: at a high school graduation in Tennessee.

According to the Associated Press, one person was killed and another injured in the incident Wednesday night at Middle Tennessee state university, where graduating seniors at Murfreesboro’s Riverdale high school were being honored.

The injured victim is hospitalized in critical condition, the AP says. It was not immediately known if the victims were students.

Rutherford county sheriff Mike Fitzhugh told local media that the shooter or shooters remain at large. The incident occurred as attendees were leaving at the conclusion of the ceremony.

The shooting at MTSU is a tragedy for our community. We mourned with the family who lost a loved one.
At 8:51 p.m. MPD and MTSU Police responded to a shooting on campus and found two people suffering from gunshot wounds near the Murphy Center. 1 dead 1 injured. READ MORE BELOW pic.twitter.com/3aBQlBb63P

— Murfreesboro TN Police Department (@MboroPoliceDept) May 19, 2022

The 24 February Russian invasion of Ukraine was, Finland’s president Sauli Niinistö added, revelatory:

The masks have fallen and we see only the cold faces of war.

Russia’s war in Ukraine has changed Europe’s and our security environment.

Finland takes the step of Nato membership in order to strengthen not only its own security, but to also to widen transatlantic security. This is not a threat to anybody.

Sweden’s prime minister Magdalena Andersson also took a swipe at Russia’s invasion, which she said was “a watershed moment” for her nation:

The situation in Ukraine reminds us of the darkest days in European history.

[But] over these past months we have shown transatlantic unity and strength at its best and have responded forcefully to Russia’s aggression by providing unprecedent support for Ukraine.

She acknowledged that her country’s decision to seek Nato membership was a marked diversion from its centuries-long stance of neutrality:

After 200 years of military non-alignment, Sweden has chosen a new path.

Russia’s full-scale aggression against a sovereign and democratic neighbor was a watershed moment for Sweden.

The security of the Swedish people will be best protected within the Nato alliance.

With Sweden and Finland as members Nato will also be stronger. We are champions of freedom, democracy and human rights.

Finland’s president Sauli Niinistö said his country had decided to seek Nato membership after a “rapid but very thorough process”:

The decision was made with an overwhelming parliamentary majority and huge, strong popular support.

Finland will be a strong Nato ally. We take our security very seriously. The Finnish armed forces are one of the strongest in Europe.

Turkey has said it will reject the Finnish and Swedish applications because of their supposed support for the Kurdish Workers’ party (PKK), which the country regards as a terrorist organization.

Addressing Turkey directly, Niinistö said:

Finland has always had broad and good bilateral relations with Turkey. As Nato allies we will commit to Turkey’s security, just as Turkey will commit to our security.

We take terrorism seriously. We condemn terrorism in all its forms and we are actively engaged in combatting it.

We are open to discussing all the concerns Turkey may have concerning our membership in an open and productive manner.

Joe Biden said that the Russian invasion eliminated any doubt he said had arisen in recent decades over the purpose of the mutual defense alliance.

Was Nato still relevant? Was it still effective? Is it still needed in the 21st century world? Today there is no question. Nato is relevant. It is effective and is more needed now than ever.

The indispensable alliance of decades past is still the indispensable alliance for the world we face today. And I would argue tomorrow as well. And the decision of Sweden and Finland, the one they have made, is testament to that commitment.

This is about the future. It’s about a revived Nato that has the tools and resources, the clarity and conviction, to defend our shared values and lead the world.

He said the two Nordic nations possessed all the attributes needed to make them valuable members of an alliance that would grow to 32 member states, if they are admitted:

Sweden and Finland have strong democratic institutions, strong militaries and strong and transparent economies, and a strong moral sense of what is right.

They meet every Nato requirement and then some. Having two new Nato members in the high north will enhance the security of our alliance and deepen our security cooperation across the board.

Biden: Sweden and Finland ‘make Nato stronger’

Joe Biden says he’s “proud” to support the admission of Sweden and Finland to the Nato defense alliance.

The president has been speaking at the White House in a trilateral press conference with Sweden’s prime minister Magdalena Andersson and Finland’s president Sauli Niinistö, saying it’s a “momentous day”:

It’s a very, very great day. I’m proud to welcome and offer the strong support of the United States for the applications of two great democracies, and two close, highly capable partners, to join the strongest, most powerful defensive alliance in the history of the world.

Two proud independent countries exercising their sovereign right all states possess to decide their own security.

Biden said he and his fellow leaders had “a good discussion” about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the “strengthening of transatlantic security” but said talks with the two nations predated Russia’s aggression, which he said had “ruptured” Europe’s security.

We have consulted closely at every stage as Sweden and Finland made their determination and today I’m proud to assure them that they have the full, total complete backing of the United States of America.

He said his administration was submitting reports on Nato accession to congress so the Seante can “efficiently and quickly move on advising and consenting to the treaty”:

The bottom line is simple. Finland and Sweden make Nato stronger… a strong, united Nato is the foundation of America’s security.

New members joining Nato is not a threat to any nation. It never has been. Nato’s purpose is to defend against aggression.

The White House will lay out in further detail later today its plans to address the nationwide baby formula shortage, a day after Joe Biden invoked the defense production act to force manufacturers to ramp up supply.

In another move on Wednesday, the House approved a $28m emergency funding bill to address the crisis, but its fate appears uncertain in a divided Senate.

The White House call to reporters around lunchtime is expected to address planned next steps in the Biden administration’s battle to tackle the shortage, which is weighing on the president’s approval ratings along with raging inflation and soaring gas prices.

My colleague Eric Berger has this helpful explainer about what’s caused the baby formula shortage and what parents can do about it:

Senate set to approve $40bn Ukraine aid package today

A $40bn package of military, economic and humanitarian aid for Ukraine and its allies was on the cusp of Senate passage Thursday.

The vote later today would give final congressional approval to the package, three weeks after President Joe Biden requested a smaller $33bn version.

The House approved it last week after beefing up defense and humanitarian expenditures, and Senate passage was not in doubt, though a small group of Republicans was expected to vote no, the Associated Press reports.

It includes the Kentucky senator Rand Paul, who used procedural tactics to thwart quick passage of the bill last week, and who was branded “repugnant” by Democratic senate majority leader Chuck Schumer on Wednesday.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer hits at Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) for delaying $40 billion Ukraine aid bill:

“It is repugnant … For Senator Paul to delay Ukraine funding for purely political motives is to only strengthen Putin’s hand.” pic.twitter.com/R8y5jCsfzz

— The Recount (@therecount) May 18, 2022

Notably, Mitch McConnell, the Republican senate minority leader who visited Kyiv last weekend, and who has also urged swift approval of the package, did not leap to his colleague’s defense.

Once passed, Biden will swiftly sign the measure, which the AP says brings to $54bn US spending on the conflict, in excess of the amount spent on all its foreign and military aid in 2019, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.

We’ll hear more later from Nancy Pelosi and Democratic lawmakers about efforts to combat hate speech and the growth of “homegrown violent extremism,” amplified by Saturday’s racist massacre of 10 people by an alleged white supremacist gunman at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York.

The House passed the domestic terrorism bill late on Wednesday, which seeks to bolster federal resources to tackle extremist violence in the US and create new offenses specifically in that category.

Adam Kinzinger.
Adam Kinzinger. Photograph: Andrew Harnik/AP

But only one House Republican, Illinois congressman Adam Kinzinger, voted in favor, and the bill is unlikely to find much Republican support in the equally divided Senate, where it would need 60 votes to pass. The party has routinely rejected any kind of measure involving gun restrictions.

Pelosi will host a press conference at lunchtime with other congressional leaders to discuss the Buffalo shooting and its aftermath.

Some states are not waiting for action in Washington DC. New York’s Democratic governor, Kathy Hochul, has unveiled what she called a “comprehensive plan to combat domestic terrorism and prevent gun violence” for the state.

Meanwhile, the alleged Buffalo killer, Payton Gendron, 18, who is white, appeared briefly in court Thursday after a grand jury indicted him yesterday on a first-degree murder charge.

Gendron, wearing orange clothing and mask, was silent throughout the short proceeding and was sent back to jail. Somebody shouted “Payton you’re a coward!” as he was led out, the Associated Press reported.

Read more:

Turkey says it rejects Nordic nations’ Nato application

Will Nato get its two new members, Sweden and Finland? We’ll get an update shortly from Joe Biden and the Nordic nations’ respective leaders, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and President Sauli Niinistö, who’ve been meeting Thursday morning at the White House.

The US is all in on expanding the western mutual defense alliance, Biden tweeting yesterday that he “strongly supported” the applications following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

I strongly support the historic applications from Finland and Sweden for membership in NATO. I look forward to welcoming President Sauli Niinistö and Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson to Washington tomorrow so that we can further discuss their applications and European security.

— President Biden (@POTUS) May 18, 2022

But Turkey has this morning thrown a wrench into the works, with reports emerging that it’s told allies it rejects Sweden and Finland’s applications.

“We have told allies that we will say no,” Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told students, according to Reuters.

It’s uncertain to what degree Turkey’s stance could delay or even derail the process. We’re hoping for more clarity when Biden and his fellow leaders speak in short order in the Rose Garden.

Turkey appears to be the only holdout. None of the other 30 Nato members have raised objections, publicly at least, with some appearing extremely enthusiastic. The Baltic state of Estonia, long under Moscow’s shadow, can’t seem to wait:

Meanwhile, my colleague Patrick Wintour has taken this in-depth look at why Turkey is objecting, and the likely consequences of the move he says “could tangle Nato up in knots for months.”

Read more:

Good morning, and welcome to the Thursday edition of our US politics blog!

Nato is on the cusp of adding two new members to the mutual defense alliance and Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson of Sweden and President Sauli Niinistö of Finland are meeting Joe Biden at the White House as we speak to discuss the security of Europe.

The two Nordic nations say they’ve been forced into the decision by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and Biden is backing the move, tweeting yesterday that: “I strongly support the historic application.”

But Turkey is saying it doesn’t approve, and could yet derail or delay the process. We’ll hear from the three leaders in the Rose Garden shortly, before Biden hops on Air Force One to Anchorage, Alaska, en route to Seoul and meetings in the coming days with leaders of South Korea and Japan.

The Ukraine conflict, North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and China’s growing influence, in the region will be on the president’s agenda there. You can follow today’s developments in Russia’s war in our live blog here.

There’s plenty going on in the US as Biden takes his leave:

  • Lawmakers are grappling with the aftermath of the weekend’s racist massacre at a Buffalo, New York, grocery store. The House yesterday passed a domestic terrorism bill, and Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic politicians will speak at lunchtime. The alleged killer, meanwhile, is in court this morning.
  • The Biden administration has taken steps to address the nationwide baby formula shortage, invoking the 1950s-era defense production act to force manufacturers to ramp up supply. The House also passed a $28m emergency funding bill last night to address the crisis.
  • Primary vote counting continues in Pennsylvania where Donald Trump’s approved candidate and TV doctor Mehmet Oz is locked in a tight race with David McCormick for the Republican senate nomination.
  • We’ll hear from the White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, and the national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, as they “gaggle” with reporters on the flight to Alaska.



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