WASHINGTON (AP) — The House forcefully approved a new $40 billion Ukraine aid package on Tuesday as lawmakers bolstered President Joe Biden’s initial request, signaling a magnified bipartisan commitment to thwart the invasion. bloody three months of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The measure sailed to passage by a skewed 368-57 margin, providing $7 billion more than Biden’s request from April and splitting the increase evenly between defense and humanitarian programs. The bill would provide military and economic assistance to Ukraine, aid regional allies, replenish weapons the Pentagon has shipped overseas, and provide $5 billion to address global food shortages caused by the crippling war. the normally robust production of many of Ukraine’s crops.
The measure was supported by all voting Democrats and nearly 3 in 4 Republicans. The House debate reflected a perspective, widely shared by both parties, that the United States has even more at stake than stand by Ukraine.
“The Ukrainian people need us, they desperately need our support,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., chair of the House Appropriations Committee. “Vladimir Putin and his cronies must be held accountable. This bill does that by protecting democracy, limiting Russian aggression, and strengthening our own national security.
“As China, Iran and North Korea monitor our response, we must show the world that America stands firm with its allies and will do what is necessary to protect our interests abroad,” he said. Representative Kay Granger of Texas, the most Republican on this committee. .
The new legislation would bring U.S. support for the effort to nearly $54 billion, including the $13.6 billion in congressional support signed into law in March. That’s about $6 billion more than the United States spent on all of 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 about 1% of the entire federal budget.
The measure was released as Washington increasingly asserted its goals and willingness to help Ukraine with more sophisticated weapons. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said recently that the United States wants a “weakened” Russia that cannot quickly restore its ability to attack other countries.
Russian attacks on the port of Odessa in southern Ukraine have intensified in what appears to be an attempt to hamper Western arms deliveries. These weapons have helped Ukraine defend itself surprisingly well against its deadliest enemy, but the bitter war is taking its toll.
Senate approval of Ukrainian aid seems certain, and members of both parties have echoed the need for quick action. “As Putin desperately accelerates his campaign of horror and brutality in Ukraine, time is running out,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
But it was unclear when the Senate would act, and changes were possible, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., insisting the measure be narrowly war-focused.
“I think we’re on the right track to get there,” McConnell told reporters. “It should be free from superfluous questions, directly related to helping the Ukrainians win the war.”
Some Republicans have used the election season debate to accuse Biden of not being clear about his goals.
“Honestly, don’t we deserve a plan?” said Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas. He said he agreed that Western countries should help Ukraine stand up to Russia, but added: “Doesn’t the administration need to tell us where are we going with this?”
Oksana Markarova, Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States, attended the separate Democratic and Republican Senate luncheons on Tuesday and expressed her gratitude for the support they received. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said Markarova told them her country had depleted its stockpiles of Soviet-era weapons and said NATO’s continued support was vital.
Coons said the Ukrainian’s message was: “Thank you, do more. We have a tough fight ahead of us. With your support, we can win.
The new measure includes $6 billion to arm and train Ukrainian forces, $8.7 billion to restore US stockpiles of weapons shipped to Ukraine, and $3.9 billion for US forces deployed in the region.
There is also $8.8 billion in economic support for Ukraine, $4 billion to help Ukraine and its allies finance the purchase of arms and equipment, and $900 million for housing. , education and other aid for Ukrainian refugees in the United States.
To improve the measure’s chances in Congress, the House bill dropped Biden’s proposal to ease the path to lawful permanent residency for eligible Afghans who fled to the United States after the U.S. pulled out of it. country last summer. Some Republicans have expressed concerns about the adequacy of security checks for candidates.
In their biggest concession, Biden and Democrats on Monday scrapped plans to include billions more dollars to build the US supply of drugs, vaccines and tests for COVID-19. Republican support for more pandemic spending is waning, and including that money would have slowed Ukraine’s measure in the Senate 50-50, where at least 10 GOP votes will be needed for passage.
Democrats hope to produce a separate COVID-19 package soon, though its fate is unclear.
Biden met Tuesday in the White House Situation Room with Pelosi and six other House Democrats who recently traveled to Ukraine and Poland. Afterwards, Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., a member of that delegation and a former Army Ranger, said the Ukrainians needed advanced drones and longer-range weapons like artillery, rockets and anti-ship missiles that will help them repel the Russians.
Associated Press writer Farnoush Amiri contributed to this report.