A fresh $40 billion Ukraine aid package headed toward House passage Tuesday as lawmakers beefed up President Joe Biden’s initial request, signaling a magnified U.S. commitment to thwart Russian President Vladimir Putin’s bloody three-month-old invasion.
The measure was expected to win wide bipartisan support and had $7 billion more than Biden’s plan from last month, evenly divided between defense and humanitarian programs. The bill would give Ukraine military and economic assistance, help regional allies, replenish weapons the Pentagon has shipped overseas and provide $5 billion to address global food shortages caused by the war’s crippling of Ukraine’s normally robust production of many crops.
The new legislation would bring American support for the effort to nearly $54 billion, on top of the $13.6 billion in support Congress enacted in March. That’s about $6 billion more than the U.S. spent on all its foreign and military aid in 2019, according to a January report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, which studies issues for lawmakers. It’s also around 1% of the entire federal budget.
“Time is of the essence, and we cannot afford to wait,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., wrote in a letter to colleagues. She said the measure “sends a resounding message to the world of our unwavering determination to stand with the courageous people of Ukraine until victory is won.”
The measure was released as Washington has become increasingly assertive about its goals and its willingness to help Ukraine with more sophisticated weapons. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said recently the U.S. wants a “weakened” Russia that can’t quickly restore its capability to attack other countries.
Russian attacks on Ukraine’s southern port of Odesa have intensified in what seems an attempt to hamper deliveries of Western arms. Those weapons have helped Ukraine hold its own surprisingly well against its more lethal foe, but the grinding war is taking its toll.
Senate approval of Ukrainian aid seems certain, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and other Republicans have echoed the need for quick action. But it was unclear when that would occur and changes in the measure were possible, with McConnell insisting that the measure be narrowly focused on the war.
“I think we’re on a path to getting that done,” McConnell told reporters Tuesday. “It needs to be clean of extraneous matters, directly related to helping the Ukrainians win the war.”
Some Republicans used the election-season debate to accuse Biden of being unclear about his goals.
“Honestly, do we not deserve a plan?” said Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas. He said he agrees that Western countries must help Ukraine stand up to Russia but added, “Does the administration not need to come to us with where we are going with this?”
Oksana Markarova, Ukraine’s ambassador to the U.S., attended Tuesday’s separate Democratic and Republican Senate lunches and expressed gratitude for the support they’ve received. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said Makarova told them her country has depleted its stockpiles of Soviet-era weapons and said continued NATO support is vital.
Coons said the Ukrainian’s message was, …read more
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