Wednesday May 29, 2024

Biden signs TikTok ban package, Ukraine aid

By Reuters
April 25, 2024
US President Joe Biden during his address in California. — AFP File
US President Joe Biden during his address in California. — AFP File

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden signed a hard-fought bill into law on Wednesday that provides billions of dollars of new U.S. aid to Ukraine for its war with Russia, notching a rare bipartisan victory for the president as he seeks reelection and ending months of wrangling with Republicans in Congress.

“It gives vital support to America’s partners so they can defend themselves from threats to their sovereignty,” Biden said.

The bill includes $61 billion in aid to Ukraine and $26 billion for Israel, as well as $1 billion in humanitarian assistance to Gaza and $8 billion to counter China’s military might.

The impact of the legislation was immediate. Biden said he had approved an initial $1 billion in weapons supplies for Ukraine and that the flow of these arms would start within hours.

The initial aid package includes vehicles, Stinger air defense munitions, additional ammunition for high-mobility artillery rocket systems, 155mm artillery ammunition, TOW and Javelin anti-tank munitions and other weapons that can immediately be put to use on the battlefield.

Biden thanked House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson, the top Republican in Washington, for breaking the deadlock on the legislation and vowed to return soon to addressing border security, a top issue for Republicans.

“This is a reminder of what America can do when we come together despite our differences,” he said.

Biden blamed “MAGA Republicans” loyal to Trump for spending months blocking the aid, referring to Trump’s Make America Great Again slogan.

He said passage of the legislation sends a direct message to Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose military has been making gains in Ukraine.

“He’s failed again. American stands with our friends. ... We bow to no one, no one, certainly not Vladimir Putin,” he said.

Biden also signed a separate bill tied to the aid legislation that bans TikTok in the United States if its owner, the Chinese tech firm ByteDance, fails to divest the popular short video app over the next nine months to a year.

The social media platform is particularly popular with left-leaning young Americans, a group crucial to Biden’s victory in November.

The U.S. Senate followed the House on Tuesday evening, passing a sweeping bill that provides $61 billion in aid to the country, which has suffered setbacks in the war that supporters blame on the delay in getting the additional U.S. funding.

Biden has argued that he helped restore U.S. credibility on the world stage after Trump’s tumultuous four-year tenure, in part by strengthening the NATO alliance and providing a united front against Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump has argued for an “America First” policy and has threatened to let NATO allies fend for themselves if they do not increase their defense spending.

Republicans who backed the aid package said it was not a vote for Biden but a reflection of their party’s values.