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White House releases $40.1B supplemental funding request

Emergency aid package faces uphill climb as House conservatives oppose more Ukraine funds

Aerial view of the Pentagon building in Arlington, Va., on Aug. 2.
Aerial view of the Pentagon building in Arlington, Va., on Aug. 2. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

President Joe Biden requested $40.1 billion in emergency spending Thursday for Ukraine, disaster relief and more, in a request that would evade budget caps and complicate an already contentious battle over appropriations.

The supplemental spending package, if approved, would most likely hitch a ride on a stopgap funding measure Congress needs to pass next month to avoid a partial government shutdown.

With the government’s main disaster relief fund facing a projected budget shortfall early next month, pressure to pass the package will increase even as some House conservatives push back against increasing domestic spending.

Here are the main components of the funding request issued by the Office of Management and Budget.

Ukraine and foreign assistance

The request includes about $24.1 billion as the next round of assistance for Ukraine in its two-year effort to repel a Russian invasion and other countries affected by the Moscow regime’s influence as well as that of the Chinese leadership in Beijing.

That includes $13.1 for the Pentagon to provide military aid, largely for equipment and to replenish U.S. stocks of weapons sent to Ukraine, and $8.5 for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development to provide economic and humanitarian assistance.

The State Department piece includes $200 million to help “counter the destabilizing activities” of the Wagner Group and other “Russian Malign Actors” in African countries, and $1 billion to help “strengthen strategic partnerships in developing countries,” according to the Office of Management and Budget’s description of the aid package.

The request also calls for $2.3 billion in Treasury Department financing tools including to support World Bank infrastructure programs to help counter China’s influence in developing countries.

OMB Director Shalanda D. Young wrote in the request that the combined financing efforts to help strengthen developing economies could unlock $27 billion in additional U.S. and other funding efforts. On top of that, the request seeks authorization for International Monetary Fund lending that the administration says could provide $21 billion in added financing.

There’s also an ask for $100 million to support Ukrainian refugees and $68 million for the Energy Department to “support continued nuclear and radiological crisis management and response.”

The request doesn’t publicize any direct support  for Taiwan as some have floated. But included within the State Department piece is $1 billion in backing for the foreign military financing program, which helps allies purchase U.S. defense equipment.

The money is ostensibly for “Ukraine and countries affected by the war in Ukraine.” But further on in the description, the language stipulates that part of the $1 billion in foreign military financing could be used “to support the United States-Taiwan defense relationship, strengthen Taiwan’s self-defense capabilities, and expedite the delivery of defense articles to Taiwan”.

Money to aid Taiwan in the event of aggression from mainland China could be a sweetener for conservatives opposed to the new aid package for Ukraine.

A new round of aid faces resistance from a bloc of restive House conservatives who fear money going to waste at the expense of domestic needs. When the House passed its fiscal 2024 defense authorization bill last month, 70 Republicans voted for a defeated amendment by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., that would have prohibited any more U.S. assistance to Ukraine, while 89 Republicans voted for a defeated amendment by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., to eliminate $300 million in Ukraine funding.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., has tried to walk a careful line on the issue, saying Ukraine deserves U.S. support but that he was unwilling to provide a “blank check” without more rigorous oversight of the funding.

Congress has already allocated more than $35 billion for the Defense Department alone in fiscal 2023 to support Ukraine, part of an overall appropriations total surpassing $100 billion since Russia’s February 2022 invasion.

Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh told reporters Tuesday that the U.S. government has exhausted funds available under presidential drawdown authority, which provides munitions from current stockpiles — except for roughly $6 billion that was made available in June after an accounting error.

Disaster relief

From flooding in Vermont to wildfires in Maui, lawmakers will be under pressure next month to respond to a growing number of natural disasters, even as the disaster relief fund run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency faces a nearly $4.3 billion shortfall by Sept. 30, according to FEMA’s latest monthly report.

The request would provide a cash infusion of $12 billion to close that projected shortfall and likely cover the next several months. Lawmakers of both parties from hurricane-prone Florida have already requested shoring up the fund with $11.5 billion in additional aid.

But even if that money is approved, another $20 billion could be needed to get through the upcoming fiscal year starting Oct. 1. Congress could provide that $20 billion if it passes the stopgap funding measure needed by Sept. 30. An “anomaly” typically included in such a continuing resolution to extend current funding would give the relief fund that extra cash.

The White House package also seeks $60 million to support pay increases for wildland firefighters battling infernos on Maui and elsewhere. Without additional funding, the administration said as many as 20,000 firefighters could see steep pay cuts starting in October.

Border security

The package also includes nearly $4 billion for a variety of measures aimed at strengthening the security of the southern border, while stopping short of funding construction of a border wall as Republicans want. 

Of that request, $2.65 billion is for Homeland Security Department efforts, including border management as well as shelter and services for migrants released from custody. That funding includes $416 million to help stop the flow of fentanyl over the border with “non-intrusive inspection system deployment.” 

The Department of Health and Human Services would receive another $350 million for counter-fentanyl activities including treatment and recovery support.

The State Department would receive $800 million for its migration assistance programs, and another $159 million would be provided for child labor investigations and enforcement and for immigration judge teams.

An effort to bolster border security could help shore up support for the continuing resolution needed next month. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, a leading member of the hard-line Freedom Caucus, circulated a letter to colleagues this week saying he could not support a funding measure that did not include provisions to strengthen the border. “No border security, no funding,” Roy wrote.

He called on Biden to sign a House bill that would restrict asylum eligibility for migrants journeying to the U.S.-Mexico border, reinstate family detention, heighten penalties for visa overstays and restart border wall construction. He also called for ousting Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and for reimbursing Texas $10 billion that he said the state has paid for border security efforts.

Heavy lift

The package could win bipartisan support in the Senate, though some Republicans may resist some of the domestic spending initiatives. But it faces a steep climb in the House, where a sizable bloc of the GOP conference is trying to pare back discretionary spending levels for the coming fiscal year, citing concern about deficits.

The emergency spending request would be exempt from budget caps imposed as part of a debt limit suspension law passed in June, which was designed to keep discretionary spending relatively flat in the coming year. But some conservatives, led by the Freedom Caucus, considered the budget caps too generous and were pushing to scale back discretionary spending to fiscal 2022 levels. Emergency spending is sure to complicate that effort.

And while some Republicans push to downsize the request, some Democrats will seek to increase it.

Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Tina Smith of Minnesota urged the Biden administration in a CNN column this week to provide more emergency child care funding, now that earlier money provided during the COVID-19 pandemic is coming to an end.

Child care organizations make the case that with stabilization funding from the 2021 pandemic relief law set to expire in September, 3.2 million children could lose access to care, according to The Century Foundation, a progressive think tank.

“Experts estimate that $16 billion would prevent the child care sector from falling off the pandemic funding cliff, giving child care providers support to retain their staffs and keep open the classrooms that parents rely on,” Warren and Smith wrote.

Paul M. Krawzak contributed to this report.

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