‘A Good Day for America’: Biden Signs $95 Billion Foreign Aid Bill

‘A Good Day for America’: Biden Signs $95 Billion Foreign Aid Bill

The president said aid would flow quickly.
By Yuval Rosenberg
Wednesday, April 24, 2024
Happy Wednesday! President Joe Biden signed into law the bill providing aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, saying it would make America and the world safer and continue U.S. global leadership. "When our allies are stronger, we are stronger," he said. Here’s what you should know.

‘A Good Day for America’: Biden Signs $95 Billion Foreign Aid Bill

President Joe Biden on Wednesday signed into law a $95.3 billion foreign aid package after the Senate approved it on an overwhelmingly bipartisan basis Tuesday night, ending a months-long legislative saga and enabling fresh funding for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

The Senate vote, 79-18, cemented a win for the president and congressional leaders in both parties who argued it was vitally important for both national security and global stability that the country demonstrate its continued commitment to key regional allies and democratic values. The new law provides $60.8 billion for Ukraine; $26.4 billion for Israel and humanitarian aid in Gaza and other conflict zones; and $8.1 billion for the Indo-Pacific region.

"It’s a good day for America, it’s a good day for Europe and it’s a good day for world peace, for real," Biden said after signing the bill into law, adding that the United States is stronger when its allies are stronger. In a statement after the Senate vote, he said: "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 [Russian President Vladimir] Putin."

Biden said Wednesday that military shipments to Ukraine would start within hours, and the Pentagon announced a roughly $1 billion package of munitions, weapons, and equipment, including air defense interceptors, artillery rounds, armored vehicles and anti-tank weapons.

The Pentagon said this would be the 56th tranche of equipment to be provided to Ukraine from Defense Department inventories since August 2021 and that this latest round of military assistance brings the total since Russia first invaded in February 2022 to more than $44.2 billion.

Biden noted that the aid package had a taken difficult path to get to his desk. "It should have been easier and it should have gotten there sooner," he said, "but in the end, we did what America always does: We rose to the moment, we came together and we got it done."

The legislation, which Biden initially called for in October, endured a tortuous six-month trek to passage, primarily because of Republican opposition to further funding for Ukraine in its fight to beat back Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion. More House Republicans voted against the aid to Kyiv than for it. House Speaker Mike Johnson, who had delayed a vote on the foreign aid package, ultimately relied on Democrats to help pass the funding in separate bills that were then stitched together for Senate approval.

Johnson also added some other Republican sweeteners, including allowing seized Russian assets to be used for Ukraine and structuring some economic assistance to Kyiv as a loan, albeit one that can be forgiven by the president. Johnson and other supporters of the bill pointed out that much of the funding will be spent domestically, including $23.2 billion for replenishing U.S. weapons stockpiles.

Nine Republican senators who opposed a similar package passed by the Senate in February switched their votes to support the legislation on Tuesday. Fifteen conservatives opposed it, as did liberal Sens. Jeff Merkley, Peter Welch and Bernie Sanders, who opposed funding Israel’s government and the war in Gaza.

The clock is Tik-ing: The new law also includes a measure requiring TikTok to be sold within about nine months or face a nationwide ban. The president could extend the deadline by 90 days.

The funding fight may be revisited: "It’s likely Ukraine will require another supplemental by the end of the year," Politico’s Calder McHugh noted, "as it does not look like the war will be over anytime soon."

Number of the Day: 3.6 Million

The Food and Drug Administration’s recent approval of blockbuster anti-obesity drug Wegovy for use in fighting cardiovascular disease means that some 3.6 million people could be eligible for Medicare coverage of the drug, according to a new report by KFF, a healthcare research group.

Medicare is prohibited by law from covering drugs specifically for obesity but the new FDA decision could open up access to Wegovy for about 1 in 4 people on Medicare diagnosed as being obese or overweight. The analysis notes that the actual number of eligible Medicare beneficiaries could be even higher than 3.6 million, though nearly 2 million beneficiaries may have already been eligible for the drug as a diabetes treatment.

Some Medicare beneficiaries could still face significant monthly out-of-pocket costs of $325 to $430 for the drug until they hit the new $2,000 cap on annual out-of-pocket outlays. And, of course, Medicare itself is likely to face billions of dollars in increased costs, depending on how plans cover the drug and how many people use it.

"For example, if plans receive a 50% rebate on the list price of $1,300 per month (or $15,600 per year), that could mean annual net costs per person around $7,800," the KFF report says. "If 10% of the target population (an estimated 360,000 people) uses Wegovy for a full year, that would amount to additional net Medicare Part D spending of $2.8 billion for one year for this one drug alone."

Medicare could put the anti-obesity drug on its list for price negotiations as early as next year, KFF notes, meaning that a lower negotiated price could be available starting in 2027.

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