Senate passes Ukraine aid, Israel funding and TikTok crackdown, sending bill to Biden’s desk

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed a $95 billion package to provide critical aid to Ukraine and enact a provision that could lead to a nationwide ban on TikTok.

The vote of 79-18 sends the package to the White House. Fifteen Republicans and three Democrats voted against the legislation. The House passed the package on Saturday.

President Joe Biden said Tuesday night that he will swiftly enact the measure.

"I will sign this bill into law and address the American people as soon as it reaches my desk tomorrow so we can begin sending weapons and equipment to Ukraine this week," he said in a statement. "This critical legislation will make our nation and world more secure as we support our friends who are defending themselves against terrorists like Hamas and tyrants like Putin."

The package includes $60 billion in aid to Ukraine that President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said would give his country “a chance at victory” against Russia. It also includes $26 billion in assistance to Israel and humanitarian relief in Gaza, in addition to $8 billion for security in Taiwan and the Indo-Pacific.

And it will give TikTok’s China-based parent company nine months, which the president could extend to a year, to sell the popular social media platform or be banned in the U.S. That puts TikTok closer than ever before to a prohibition while ensuring that it won’t be banned until after the 2024 election. TikTok has said it will fight the law in court once it is signed into law.

Image: U.S. House Votes On Foreign Aid Package For Ukraine, Israel, And TaiwanU.S. and Ukrainian flags fly near the U.S. Capitol on Saturday as the House passed aid to Ukraine.Nathan Howard / Getty Images

“Finally, finally, finally. Tonight after more than six months of hard work, and many twists and turns in the road, America sends a message to the entire world: We will not turn our back on you,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the Senate floor moments before the vote.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., heralded Tuesday as “an important day for America” after months of GOP infighting over whether to keep funding Ukraine. McConnell said “we’ve turned the corner on the isolationist movement” and attributed the delay to two men: former Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson for his “demonization of Ukraine” and former President Donald Trump for his “mixed views” and earlier resistance to helping the country.

In pressing for the legislation, Biden directed his team to follow a strategy of sticking to substance, not politics, to get Ukraine aid over the finish line, the White House said. That included staying in close contact with Johnson and his staff and laying off targeted attacks against him as much as possible while broadly urging House Republicans to act. It also mean emphasizing the intelligence picture and the national security risks of inaction for America. 

Steve Ricchetti, a counselor to the president, said Biden’s meeting with congressional leaders at the White House in February "really charted the course, and we left saying we have to get this done. Let’s deepen the dialogue about what we’re going to do to get there.” 

Ricchetti added of Biden’s role in the negotiations, “One of his superpowers is figuring out how to get these things done.”

Two months ago, the Senate voted 70-29 to pass a similar $95 billion foreign aid package — but without the TikTok provision. Still, the Senate proved receptive to the TikTok ban bill, which the House revised. An earlier House-passed bill would have given the parent company six months to sell TikTok, less than the current one.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., the chair of the Commerce Committee, endorsed the new bill, saying she’s “very happy” with the extended window for TikTok to be sold. Cantwell noted that she recommended the change.

"I support this updated legislation," she said.

Advocates for banning the app in the U.S. express concerns about TikTok’s relationship to ByteDance, a company based in Beijing, saying Americans’ data could, under Chinese law, be accessed by China’s government, a prospect that TikTok has downplayed, saying its headquarters are in Singapore and Los Angeles. They also claim China could manipulate the algorithm to advance propaganda.

A TikTok spokesperson responded to the House’s vote over the weekend by saying, “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, devastate 7 million businesses, and shutter a platform that contributes $24 billion to the U.S. economy annually.” 

A source within TikTok shared an internal memo sent after the House passed the bill that said that once Biden signs it into law, it "will move to the courts for a legal challenge."

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, lobbied his colleagues to reject the package, saying 41 senators could join to filibuster it.

“The $95 billion bill doesn’t have to pass. It takes only 41 senators stop it,” Lee wrote on X. “There are 49 Republicans in the Senate—more than enough. Where do your senators stand?”