Congress rushes to pass $40 billion Ukraine aid package

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“Time is running out – and we can’t afford to wait,” the president said Nancy Pelosi said in a letter to House Democrats. “With this aid package, America sends a resounding message to the world of our unwavering determination to stand with the brave people of Ukraine until victory is won.”

Hill leaders reached a tentative agreement Monday on the sweeping aid package, and Democrats were still ironing out their differences Tuesday morning before free text this afternoon. But some Congressional Republicans say even more aid to Ukraine will be needed in the months ahead.

“It would be a tragedy for Ukraine to have bought all this time with our help, to lose the initiative now,” the Senate Minority Whip said. John Thune (RS.D.) said on the floor.

Legislation should easily pass through both chambers. But the decision by leading Democrats to forgo adding $10 billion in Covid health funding to the package — at the insistence of Republicans — has caused consternation within the majority party, as funding for tests, therapies and vaccines now faces an uncertain path to final passage.

the Covid package could finally clear Congress on its own, however, after two Senate Democratic leaders said they were ready to give Republicans a vote on a controversial immigration policy that has unrelated pandemic funding bill stifled movement for over a month.

Under the Ukraine aid package, the nearly $40 billion total goes beyond Biden’s two-week-old request for $33 billion, a sum that was already expected to be transformative for the Ukrainian military and NATO allies and accounts for more than 5% of the total US National Security Budget of $782 billion. Lawmakers opted to include even more funding for military and humanitarian programs than Biden had originally called for.

Despite the boost to Biden’s proposal, Republicans say more money may still be needed to adequately help Ukraine fend off the Russian invasion.

“Defeating Putin is priceless,” the senator said. Lindsey Graham (RS.C.), the top Senate Republican on the spending panel that funds the State Department and foreign aid programs.

“Do I think this will be the last round? No, I think we’ll start over,” Graham said. “Who knows where we will be in two months, three months from now. As long as they are ready to fight, we must help them.

The president’s initial request included billions to arm Ukraine and fund higher levels of troops in Europe, as well as to replenish military stockpiles of weapons that have been sent into the fight against Russia. The White House said its request would support Ukraine over the next five months of the ongoing conflict.

Amid last-minute scramble over the final text of the emergency aid package, a bipartisan group of senators have been pushing for the bill to allow the US to seize and sell the assets of Russian oligarchs to pay for humanitarian efforts in Ukraine. The legislation includes $67 million in funding for the Justice Department to help pay for the costs of seizing and selling such assets, such as the oligarchs’ yachts.

The Ukrainian legislation also includes a $174,000 payment for Anne Garland Young, the wife of late Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska). Payments are traditional in the chamber for the spouses or assigns of legislators who died while still in office.

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