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Senate approves $40 billion aid package for Ukraine

The bill marks America's biggest funding push yet for Ukraine since the start of the war.

WASHINGTON (CN) — Nearly four months into Russia's brutal attack on Ukraine, the Senate approved a $40 billion bill Thursday to supply the former Soviet nation with military, humanitarian and economic aid.

The legislation gives $17 billion for the U.S. to send Ukraine military assistance and weapons from U.S. stockpiles and from deals with weapons contractors.

Another $9 billion from the package will restock and replace weapons and military equipment previously sent to Ukraine from U.S. reserves. On top of weapons support, the bill will fund mission and intelligence support for European Command operations and give $954 million in humanitarian aid to Ukrainian refugees through resources such as housing and public health support.

All together, the aid package is the largest round of U.S. financial support for Ukraine so far since Russia began its military siege against Ukraine on Feb. 24. It also provides substantially more support than the $33 billion in aid President Joe Biden initially requested last month.

The bill passed by a vote of 86-11 and heads now to the president's desk, delayed a full week by objections from Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky over funding concerns.

"My oath of office is to the U.S. Constitution, not to any foreign nation. And no matter how sympathetic the cause, my oath of office is to the national security of the United States of America. We cannot save Ukraine by dooming the U.S. economy," Paul said on the chamber floor last Friday.

Despite the delay, the bipartisan vote on Thursday secured the bill's passage close to a deadline when the White House warned previous allocations of weapons and funds for Ukraine would end.

"It's embarrassing to say that we had to wait a full calendar week in the midst of a bloody war where innocent people are dying and a nation has been driven and reduced to rubble to sit here for a political purpose," Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-highest ranking Democrat in the chamber, said on the Senate floor Thursday.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who visited Kyiv along with a group of Republican senators last week, also rejected Paul's argument about the high price tag of the legislation, asserting that the legislation is critical to maintaining the current international security landscape.

"As a matter of moral principle, the United States is proud to support a sovereign democracy's self defense. Innocent Ukrainians have been subjected to wanton cruelty. But aid for Ukraine goes far beyond charity. The future of America's security and core strategic interests will be shaped by the outcome of this fight. Anyone concerned about the cost of supporting a Ukrainian victory should consider the much larger cost should Ukraine lose," McConnell said on the Senate floor Thursday.

It was only a day earlier that Russian troops gained control of Mariupol, a city on Ukraine's southeast cost where Ukrainian forces spent weeks pushing back against Russian bombardments. The fall of Mariupol is the latest signal that the Kremlin is determined for its war on Ukraine to be a long one, with little chance of a diplomatic end to the conflict in sight.

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