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Senate OKs $40B Ukraine aid bill for Biden’s signature

Overwhelming bipartisan support for new emergency funding bill, on top of initial round in March

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., is seen after the senate luncheons in the Capitol on May 18, 2022.
Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., is seen after the senate luncheons in the Capitol on May 18, 2022. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A $40.1 billion aid package to help arm the Ukrainian military and provide economic and humanitarian relief is on its way to President Joe Biden’s desk roughly three weeks after he asked Congress for another emergency cash infusion. 

The Senate voted 86-11 Thursday to clear the supplemental funding bill, with all of the “no” votes coming from Republicans. Biden is expected to sign the measure quickly, as Thursday was the day his administration anticipated Defense Department funding and “drawdown” authority to send weapons and equipment to Ukraine would run out.

The outcome was preordained after a 368-57 vote in the House last week and after the Senate voted 88-11 to proceed with debate on the measure Tuesday. A large majority of GOP lawmakers in each chamber voted to advance the package.

“Today the Senate will approve more lethal assistance for Ukraine, and it’s going to be a big bipartisan landslide. I encourage every senator on both sides to join this bipartisan supermajority,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the floor before Thursday’s vote. “The most expensive and painful thing America could possibly do in the long run would be to stop investing in sovereignty, stability and deterrence before it’s too late.”

There remained an undercurrent of skepticism among Republicans, however, who argued the package was too large and should be financed with cuts elsewhere in the budget.

“The vast majority of Americans sympathize with Ukraine and want them to repel the Russian invaders. But if Congress were honest, they would take the money from elsewhere in the budget or ask Americans to pay higher taxes or, heaven forbid, loan the money to Ukraine instead of giving it to Ukraine,” Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said during debate earlier this week. “But Congress will do what Congress does best: spend other people’s money.”

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer blamed GOP reticence on fealty to former President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” philosophy.

“It is beyond troubling to see a growing circle of Senate Republicans proudly oppose Ukrainian funding,” Schumer said on the floor Thursday. “It appears more and more MAGA Republicans are on the same soft-on-Putin playbook that we saw used by former President Trump.”

Bolstering Biden’s request

The new money would come on top of $13.6 billion appropriated in March for Ukraine’s efforts to repel the Russian invasion, funding which evaporated quickly in the face of a drawn-out conflict.

Lawmakers ultimately added substantially to Biden’s initial $33 billion aid request submitted April 28, including almost $3.7 billion more than Biden asked for to replenish the Pentagon’s stocks of weapons sent to Ukraine, for a total of nearly $9.1 billion. The president’s drawdown authority for such military transfers would grow by $8.5 billion.

In total, the Defense Department would receive $20.1 billion in the package, including a fresh $6 billion in direct aid to Ukraine’s military and security forces and $3.9 billion to support the U.S. troop deployment in the region.

An additional $18.9 billion in the underlying bill would go to State Department, U.S. Agency for International Development and related foreign assistance programs, or roughly $4.2 billion more than Biden requested.

Most of that increase, nearly $3.7 billion, would go towards food aid for countries suffering from supply shortages and price spikes due to the war in Ukraine, which is a major exporter of commodities like corn and wheat. Overall, about $5.1 billion in the package would support emergency food assistance.

The bill would provide nearly $8.8 billion in economic and budgetary support for Ukraine, as well as $4 billion to help Ukraine and other allied countries in the region buy weapons and equipment.

Paul’s protest

Final passage was only delayed because Paul wouldn’t consent to let the vote happen more quickly under the Senate’s rules.

Paul’s protest came after his demand to include language in the bill that would grant oversight authority for Ukraine aid to the existing watchdog office for Afghan reconstruction efforts was rebuffed.

[Dispute over oversight is at heart of Senate’s Ukraine aid delay]

Democrats argued existing oversight language in the bill is already strong enough, with inspectors general at the Pentagon, State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development all tasked with overseeing part of the aid. Some on both sides of the aisle expressed support for the idea of a separate IG for Ukraine funding, but they differed on where it should be housed and didn’t want the debate to slow down the underlying bill.

Democrats had hoped to pair the Ukraine aid with billions of dollars more for the ongoing pandemic response effort, but had to settle for separate tracks after Republicans objected.

Republicans refused to allow the COVID-19 spending to move forward without a vote on the Biden administration’s decision to end the Title 42 program that allows the government to turn migrants away at the border to prevent the virus’ spread. Title 42 is set to expire Monday. 

More pandemic spending remains a murky proposition in the Senate, where previous bipartisan agreements stalled. 

The next effort was expected to start in the House, but House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., said Tuesday the House has no immediate plans to do so since the Senate has been the problem in holding up passage. 

Lindsey McPherson and David Lerman contributed to this report.

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