Senate to Vote on $400 Million Humanitarian Aid Bill to Venezuela

TOPSHOT - People queue to receive drums to collect water and water purification tablets from members of the Venezuelan Red Cross in Caricuao neighborhood in Caracas, Venezuela, on April 16, 2019. - The first shipment of Red Cross humanitarian aid arrived in crisis-wracked Venezuela on Tuesday following approval from President …
Matias Delacroix / AFP/ Getty

The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the Venezuela Emergency Relief, Democracy Assistance, and Development (VERDAD) Act on Wednesday, which would provide $400 million in humanitarian assistance to crisis-stricken Venezuela.

The bill now goes to the Senate floor, where it would have to pass and then go to the House of Representative, and then the president’s desk, to become law.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) announced the passing of the bill through committee via Twitter, describing it as the “most comprehensive effort to confront the crisis in Venezuela.”

A total of 15 bipartisan senators sponsored the legislation VERDAD Act, which would provide $200 million worth of aid to those inside Venezuela and a further $200 million to countries accepting Venezuelan refugees fleeing the country’s ongoing economic and humanitarian crisis.

“We’ve set up the structure for the Trump [administration] to boost [Venezuela’s] democracy movement — doubling humanitarian aid [and] expanding sanctions against [Nicolas] Maduro’s officials,” Menendez said.

The legislation aims to “provide humanitarian relief to the Venezuelan people and Venezuelan migrants, to advance a constitutional and democratic solution to Venezuela’s political crisis, to address Venezuela’s economic reconstruction, to combat public corruption, narcotics trafficking, and money laundering, and for other purposes.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who has worked closely with the Trump administration on efforts to remove Nicolás Maduro’s socialist dictatorship from power, said that the legislation sent a “strong bipartisan message of support” to the Venezuelan opposition against the regime.

“The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is sending a strong bipartisan message of support to the people of Venezuela by marking up and passing the VERDAD Act,” he said. “Venezuela’s road to democratic order and restoration of the rule of law will demand significant effort from the U.S. our regional allies and the international community. The U.S. will continue to provide much needed humanitarian assistance and help coordinate the efforts for a Venezuela post-Maduro.”

Co-sponsors of the bill included Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Ben Cardin (D-MD), John Cornyn (R-TX), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Todd Young (R-IN), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Michael Bennet (D-CO), John Barrasso (R-WY), Chris Coons (D-DE), Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tom Carper (D-DE), and Cory Gardner (R-CO).  The bill will now move forward to the Senate for a vote.

The House Judiciary Committee also passed a measure that aimed at protecting Venezuelan citizens currently residing in the United States from deportation by granting them protected immigration status, or TPS. The legislation, approved 20-9, will also be passed to the House for a final vote.
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