Senate passes bill to provide assistance to Americans returning from Afghanistan
By Clare Foran and Ali Zaslav, CNN
(CNN) -- The Senate on Tuesday approved a bill that would provide temporary assistance to American citizens who have returned from Afghanistan.
The bill would set aside up to $10 million for each fiscal year during fiscal years 2021 and 2022 to provide emergency repatriation assistance to affected individuals.
Vice President Kamala Harris came to the Senate to preside over the bill's passage on Tuesday. The bill was approved by unanimous consent during the Senate's August recess when the chamber came into session for a quick pro-forma session where no other business was conducted. The bill has already been approved by the House, so it now heads to President Joe Biden's desk for his signature. Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland requested unanimous consent to pass the bill in the Senate.
Cardin told reporters on Tuesday the legislation increases "the funds that are available to take care of Americans who have been brought home from Afghanistan. They've been uprooted, they were living in Afghanistan, so to take care of their necessities on a short-term basis. It might be housing, ... food, transportation, those sorts of issues on a short-term basis."
Passage of the legislation comes as the Biden administration faces intense criticism over its handling of the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan. The withdrawal has been marked by tragedy and chaos. Thirteen US service members and more than 170 Afghans were killed in bombing attacks outside Kabul's airport last week as the United States and other Western countries raced to complete a massive evacuation of their citizens and Afghan allies following the swift Taliban takeover of the country.
Biden is set to address the nation later on Tuesday on the end of the war in Afghanistan, one day after the last American military planes left the country.
Earlier this month, Biden acknowledged the difficulty and complexity of the situation, saying, "After 20 years, I've learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw US forces," but he also conceded, "The truth is, this did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated."
Harris did not answer questions on her way in or out of the US Capitol on Tuesday when CNN asked about Americans left behind in Afghanistan.
Asked about Harris presiding over the Senate on Tuesday, Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas said on Fox News that it's evidence of the Biden administration "recognizing that this is a debacle that will reverberate for many, many years to come."
Cotton said Biden is "trying to put a happy face on it" but he said Biden is "solely responsible" for what's been happening in Afghanistan over the last few weeks.
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