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US Ukraine supporters advance effort to force House vote on aid

FILE PHOTO: A rescuer walks during a search operation for bodies under the rubble of a building destroyed by Russian shelling, amid Russia's Invasion of Ukraine, in Borodyanka

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. House of Representatives Democrats began collecting signatures on Tuesday for a potential bid to sidestep Republican Speaker Mike Johnson and force a vote on a $95 billion security assistance package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

A spokesperson for Representative Jim McGovern, the top Democrat on the powerful House Rules Committee, said he had filed a discharge petition on Tuesday morning and had started to collect signatures.

McGovern filed legislation on Feb. 15 that could be used as a vehicle for the discharge petition, a rarely used procedural tool that eventually could force a vote on the bill if at least 218 House members - a majority of the chamber's 435 voting members - sign it.

Months after Democratic President Joe Biden asked Congress to approve more foreign security assistance, the Senate last month approved the package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan and to replenish U.S. weapons stocks by an overwhelming 70-30 vote. Twenty-two Republicans joined most Democrats in voting "aye."

But the aid has been in limbo in the House, facing resistance from Republicans closely allied with former President Donald Trump, the front-runner for his party's 2024 presidential nomination, who has opposed aid to Kyiv rather than loans.

Some opponents also argue that U.S. taxpayer dollars should not be used for foreign conflicts when the country faces huge budget deficits.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)