By Patricia Zengerle
The House passed the Ukraine spending bill by 368 to 57, with every ‘no’ vote coming from Republicans. The measure now heads to the Senate, which is expected to act quickly.
President Joe Biden had asked Congress to approve an additional $33 billion in aid for Ukraine two weeks ago, but lawmakers decided to increase the military and humanitarian funding.
“This bill will protect democracy, limit Russian aggression, and strengthen our own national security, while, most importantly, supporting Ukraine,” Democratic Representative Rosa DeLauro, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, said as she urged support for the spending package.
Biden had called on Congress to move quickly so he could sign the bill into law before existing defense aid for Ukraine runs out later in May.
Some Republicans opposed the bill, criticizing Democrats for moving too quickly to send too many U.S. taxpayer dollars abroad. Biden’s fellow Democrats narrowly control Congress, but the bill will need Republican votes to get through the Senate.
Oksana Markarova, Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States, appealed for assistance to both Democratic and Republican senators at their weekly party lunches on Tuesday.
“It was a very heartfelt and easy to understand message: Their people are dying, they’re running out of supplies and ammunition. They need our help quickly. Thank you for all our help. Please. Speed it up,” Democratic Senator Dick Durbin said after Markarova spoke.
Republican Senator Rob Portman, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and leader of the Senate Ukraine caucus, said he expected enough Republican backing for the bill to get it through the Senate.
“I think it will pass. There will be significant Republican support,” he said.
BILLIONS FOR WEAPONS
The package includes $6 billion for security assistance, including training, equipment, weapons and support; $8.7 billion to replenish stocks of U.S. equipment sent to Ukraine, and $3.9 billion for European Command operations.
In addition, the legislation authorizes a further $11 billion in Presidential Drawdown Authority, which allows the president to authorize the transfer of articles and services from U.S. stocks without congressional approval in response to an emergency. Biden had asked for $5 billion.
It also authorizes $4 billion in Foreign Military Financing to provide support for Ukraine and other countries affected by the crisis.
The United States has rushed more than $3.5 billion worth of armaments to Ukraine since Russia invaded, including howitzers, anti-aircraft Stinger systems, anti-tank Javelin missiles, ammunition and recently-disclosed “Ghost” drones. Read full story
The new aid package also includes humanitarian assistance – $5 billion to address food insecurity globally due to the conflict and nearly $9 billion for an economic support fund for Ukraine.
It provides hundreds of millions of dollars to help refugees and fund efforts to seize the assets of oligarchs linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose government has called the invasion of Ukraine a “special military operation.”
The war has killed thousands of civilians, forced millions of Ukrainians from their homes and reduced cities to rubble. Moscow has little to show for it beyond a strip of territory in the south and marginal gains in the east.