Congressional Democrats are rushing forward to whip up $39.8 billion in additional Ukraine aid, after agreeing to drop a a proposal for additional COVID-19 related funding they planned to combine.
The package, which tops President Joe Biden's $33 billion request in April, could receive a House vote as soon as Tuesday, with Senate Democrats indicating that they are prepared to move swiftly according to Reuters.
Biden on April 28 asked Congress for $33 billion to support Ukraine, including more than $20 billion in military assistance. That proposal was a dramatic escalation of U.S. funding for the war with Russia. read more
The new proposal includes an additional $3.4 billion for military aid and $3.4 billion in humanitarian aid, the sources said. -Reuters
While emergency aid for Ukraine has had bipartisan support for weeks, disputes over domestic funds for pandemic relief, or whether stiffer immigration controls should be included, have delayed the process.
"We cannot allow our shipments of assistance to stop while we await further congressional action," read a statement from President Biden, who called on lawmakers to expedite the funding so he could sign it within the next few days.
The urgency comes after Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and top House Republican Kevin McCarthy begging for the funds, which they said would run out in two weeks.
"We need your help" wrote Austin and Blinken, who said there was 'only' $100 million left from a presidential authorization of weapons (which required no congressional approval).
"We expect to exhaust that authority no later than May 19, 2022," the letter continues.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters he was pleased the Ukraine assistance was decoupled from COVID-19 aid. He had advocated for a "clean" Ukraine bill repeatedly in speeches in the Senate. -Reuters
Some Democrats, such as #2 Senator Dick Durban, weren't happy with the decision.
"It would have been so much better for us to protect the United States as well as worked to protect Ukraine," said Durban, adding that separating Ukraine aid from COVID-19 aid "doesn't help. Putting those two together would have been a positive."
Biden owned stripping the COVID relief from the bill, saying on Monday that he was advised it would slow down action "on the urgently needed Ukrainian aid."
B) Biden: However, I have been informed by Congressional leaders in both parties that such an addition would slow down action on the urgently needed Ukrainian aid – a view expressed strongly by several Congressional Republicans. We cannot afford delay in this vital war effort.— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) May 9, 2022
D) Biden: So I call on Congress to pass the Ukrainian Supplemental funding bill immediately, and get it to my desk in the next few days. And then, I urge Congress to move promptly on the COVID funding bill. This virus knows no borders— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) May 9, 2022