Senate Sends $40B Ukraine Bill to Biden05/20 06:08
The Senate has whisked a $40 billion package of military, economic and food
aid for Ukraine and U.S. allies to final congressional approval, putting a
bipartisan stamp on America's biggest commitment yet to turning Russia's
invasion into a painful quagmire for Moscow.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Senate has whisked a $40 billion package of military,
economic and food aid for Ukraine and U.S. allies to final congressional
approval, putting a bipartisan stamp on America's biggest commitment yet to
turning Russia's invasion into a painful quagmire for Moscow.
The legislation, approved 86-11 Thursday was backed by every voting Democrat
and most Republicans. While many issues under President Joe Biden have
collapsed under party-line gridlock, Thursday's lopsided vote signaled that
both parties were largely unified about sending Ukraine the materiel it needs
to fend off Russian President Vladimir Putin's more numerous forces.
"I applaud the Congress for sending a clear bipartisan message to the world
that the people of the United States stand together with the brave people of
Ukraine as they defend their democracy and freedom," Biden said in a written
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked the United States. "This is
a demonstration of strong leadership and a necessary contribution to our common
defense of freedom," he said in his nightly video address to the nation.
With control of Congress at stake in elections less than six months off, all
"no" votes came from Republicans. The same thing happened in last week's 368-57
House vote, fueling campaign-season Democratic warnings that a nationalist wing
of the GOP was in the thrall of former President Donald Trump and his
isolationist, America First preferences.
Trump, who still wields clout in the party, has accused Biden of throwing
money at Ukraine while mothers lack baby formula, a crisis sparked by a supply
chain problem over which the government has scant impact.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called it "beyond troubling"
that Republicans were opposing the Ukraine assistance. "It appears more and
more that MAGA Republicans are on the same soft-on-Putin playbook that we saw
used by former President Trump," said Schumer, using the Make America Great
Again acronym Democrats are using to cast Republicans as extremists.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., a strong backer of the
measure, warned his GOP colleagues that a Russian victory would move hostile
forces ever closer to the borders of crucial European trading partners. That
would prompt higher American defense spending and tempt China and other
countries with territorial ambitions to test U.S. resolve, he said.
"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," McConnell said.
Passage came as Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. had drawn
down another $100 million worth of Pentagon weapons and equipment to ship to
Kyiv, bringing total U.S. materiel sent there since the invasion began to $3.9
billion. He and other administration officials had warned that authority would
be depleted by Thursday, but the new legislation will replenish the amount
available by more than $8 billion.
Overall, around $24 billion in the measure is for arming and equipping
Ukrainian forces, helping them finance weapons purchases, replacing U.S.
equipment dispatched to the theater and paying for American troops deployed in
There is also $9 billion to keep Ukraine's government afloat and $5 billion
to feed countries around the globe reliant on Ukraine's now diminished crop
yields. And there is money to help Ukrainian refugees in the U.S., seize
Russian oligarchs' assets, reopen the U.S. embassy in Kyiv and prosecute
Russian war crimes.
The measure, which officials have said is designed to last through
September, tripled the size of the initial $13.6 billion in Ukraine aid that
lawmakers approved shortly after the February invasion.
The combined $54 billion price tag exceeds what the U.S. has spent annually
on all its military and economic foreign assistance in recent years, and
approaches Russia's yearly military budget.
"Help is on the way, really significant help. Help that could make sure that
the Ukrainians are victorious," said Schumer, voicing a goal that seemed nearly
unthinkable when Russia first launched its brutal attack.
If the war drags on, as seems plausible, the U.S. may have to eventually
decide whether to spend more even as inflation, huge federal deficits and a
potential recession loom. Under those circumstances, winning bipartisan
approval of any future aid bill could become tougher, especially as November
draws near and cooperation between the parties frays.
Several potential 2024 GOP presidential contenders voted for the measure,
including Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Marco Rubio of
Florida. Another -- Josh Hawley of Missouri -- voted no. Ron Johnson of
Wisconsin and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who perhaps face this fall's toughest
reelection races among GOP senators, backed the measure.
Three Democratic senators missed the vote. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland is
recovering from what he's called a minor stroke. Sherrod Brown of Ohio's office
said he woke up "not feeling well," took precautionary tests at George
Washington University Hospital, was resting at home and plans to return to the
Capitol next week. Jacky Rosen of Nevada's office said she was attending her
daughter's law school graduation.
Biden had proposed a $33 billion plan that lawmakers bolstered with added
defense and humanitarian spending. He had to drop his request to include $22.5
billion more to fuel the government's continued fight against the pandemic,
spending that was opposed by many Republicans and got entwined in a politically
complicating fight over immigration.
No Republican opposed to the legislation spoke during Thursday's debate.
After passage, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., among the 11 conservatives who voted
"no," questioned whether voters would support the bill if Congress asked them
to pay for it.
"I wonder if Americans across our country would agree if they had been shown
the costs, if they had been asked to pay for it," said Paul. "We simply borrow
it. 'Put it on my tab' is what Congress says."
Paul, who often opposes U.S. intervention and makes a habit of derailing
bills on the brink of approval, had used Senate procedures to upend Schumer's
and McConnell's plans to approve the Ukraine assistance last week.