President Biden Reassures Allies of Continued Aid to Ukraine
Time is Running Out, Warns President Biden to Congress
President Joe Biden emphasized on Sunday that American aid to Ukraine will continue for the time being, aiming to reassure allies of ongoing financial support for the war effort. However, he cautioned Congress that the clock is ticking.
In a statement from the Roosevelt Room, Biden stated, “We absolutely cannot afford any interruption in American aid to Ukraine.” His remarks came after Congress passed a short-term funding package late Saturday to prevent a government shutdown, which excluded assistance for Ukraine in their fight against Russia.
Highlighting the urgency of the situation, Biden acknowledged that the funding bill only extends until mid-November. He urged Congress to swiftly negotiate an aid package.
Biden asserted, “The majority of both parties, including Democrats and Republicans from the Senate and House, support assisting Ukraine in countering Russia’s brutal aggression. It’s time to stop playing games and get this done.”
Challenges in Gaining Approval for Ukraine Aid in Congress
Lawmakers are increasingly finding it challenging to secure approval for Ukraine assistance in Congress as the war continues. Opposition to the aid has been gaining momentum among Republicans in Congress.
Recent voting in the House revealed potential obstacles ahead. Nearly half of House Republicans voted to remove $300 million from a defense spending bill allocated for training Ukrainian soldiers and purchasing weapons. Although the funds were later approved separately, opponents celebrated their increasing numbers against Ukraine support.
Furthermore, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., excluded additional Ukraine aid from a measure to fund the government until Nov. 17. This decision closed the door on a Senate package that would have provided $6 billion to Ukraine, roughly one-third of the amount requested by the White House. Both the House and Senate overwhelmingly approved the stopgap measure to avoid a costly government shutdown, sacrificing increased aid for Ukraine.
Biden assured that this deal was made to maintain government operations and emphasized his commitment to securing additional funding.
Concerns from Foreign Allies
Foreign allies expressed surprise and concern over the recent developments. European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, speaking from Kyiv, stated that he believes this decision will not be the final word on U.S. funding for Ukraine. He also highlighted the EU’s continued substantial financial support for Ukraine and a new proposal for additional funding.
Borrell expressed hope, saying, “I trust this won’t be a definitive decision, and Ukraine will continue to receive support from the U.S.”
Shift in U.S. Support for Ukraine
The actions taken in Congress reflect a gradual shift in the unwavering support that the United States has shown Ukraine in its battle against Russia. This shift is one of the clearest indications yet of the Republican Party’s move toward a more isolationist stance. The exclusion of Ukraine funding occurred shortly after lawmakers met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who stressed the importance of additional aid for the ongoing fight.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., summarized Zelenskyy’s message during the meeting: “‘If we don’t receive the aid, we will lose the war.'” However, McCarthy, influenced by conservative members, has shifted from his previous stance of “no blank checks” for Ukraine, focusing on accountability, to accusing the Senate of prioritizing Ukraine over America. McCarthy did not confirm whether he would bring aid for Ukraine up for a House vote in the coming weeks.
Challenges in Passing Full Aid Request
Both Schumer and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky pledged to act swiftly to pass the full aid request from the White House. However, it is evident that achieving this goal will become increasingly difficult as more GOP senators question the aid or demand it be tied to immigration policy aimed at securing the southern border, echoing similar demands in the House.
Sen. Rick Scott, a Republican from Florida who voted for the spending bill after the Ukraine aid was removed, stated that Congress needs to engage in a conversation with the American public. He expressed optimism after the aid was taken out of the bill, emphasizing the need for transparency in how the money is spent.
Rep. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, wants to send a clear message of U.S. support for Ukraine by passing legislation. However, he believes the Pentagon has sufficient funds to last through December. Rogers still believes McCarthy supports funding for Ukraine, despite challenges within his caucus.
Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, recalled McCarthy’s promise to Zelenskyy during his visit, stating that “we will give them what they need.” Meeks criticized the speaker and former President Donald Trump, who has called on Congress to withhold additional Ukraine funding until various government agencies provide evidence related to the Biden family’s business dealings.
U.S. Aid to Ukraine
The United States has already approved four rounds of aid to Ukraine in response to Russia’s invasion, totaling approximately $113 billion. Some of this funding has been used to replenish U.S. military equipment sent to the front lines. In August, Biden requested an additional $24 billion from Congress.