House approves $13.6 billion in emergency aid for Ukraine
WASHINGTON — The $1.5 trillion spending bill passed by the House on Wednesday was fueled in large part by bipartisan support for an emergency aid package for Ukraine, which would direct $13.6 billion dollars in military and humanitarian aid to the war-torn country attacked by Russia.
The emergency funds, details of which were released just hours before Wednesday night’s vote, are split equally between military and humanitarian aid, with money earmarked for troop costs deployed in Europe and to provide emergency assistance to Ukrainians still living in the country and those who have fled.
The price of the package has risen from $6.4 billion, the White House’s original request, reflecting Congress’ furious reaction to Russia’s brutal assault on Ukraine – and how, struggling to unite behind significant help for Kyiv, Republicans and Democrats have resorted to one of the few substantial tools at their disposal: sending money and weapons.
“The brave, freedom-loving people of Ukraine and our allies in the region will receive the investments urgently needed to fight Vladimir Putin and the illegal and immoral Russian invasion,” said Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and leader of the majority, and president. Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, said in a joint statement detailing the spending.
The bill would send $6.5 billion to the Pentagon to cover the costs of deploying U.S. troops to allies on the eastern flank and providing intelligence support to Ukrainian forces, as well as replacing weapons that the U.S. States have already sent to the Kiev government. The Biden administration initially requested $4.8 billion in military aid.
Lawmakers from both parties have been eager to help arm Ukraine’s military, and that appetite only grew after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met with members of Congress last weekend and pleaded for additional jets and weapons.
Earlier this month, President Biden authorized a $350 million arms package including Javelin anti-tank missiles and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles as well as small arms and ammunition, a shipment that represented the largest transfer of weapons cleared from US military warehouses to another country. The United States alone has deployed more than 15,000 troops to Europe, while committing an additional 12,000 troops to the NATO Response Force if needed.
The bill would allocate $2.65 billion to the United States Agency for International Development to provide emergency food aid and health care to Ukrainians and other affected people in the region. And that also includes nearly $120 million for the Justice and Treasury Departments to prosecute those who violate new sanctions and export controls imposed by the United States in an attempt to squeeze the Russian economy.
Hours after speaking on the phone with Mr. Zelensky for nearly 45 minutes, Ms. Pelosi indicated that Congress would likely need to provide more help in the future.
“What he asked for was help rebuilding Ukraine,” Ms. Pelosi said, “and we are all going to help rebuild, because the beast that is Putin only destroys civilian areas”. Ms Pelosi later added: ‘We will all have to do more.
The Chamber also voted, by 414 votes against 17, on Wednesday evening, to ban imports of oil and gas from Russia and to review Moscow’s membership of the World Trade Organization.
Russo-Ukrainian war: what you need to know
The White House initially balked at the idea of banning Russian gas and oil, citing fears of skyrocketing gas prices for American consumers, but under pressure from Republicans and Democrats in Congress, Mr. Biden announced on Monday that he was doing so.
At the behest of the White House, Democrats finally scrapped a measure to revoke Russia’s preferred trade status at the World Trade Organization.
“The president rightly wants to talk to our allies about this action and their perspective,” said Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat and Majority Leader. “It will have a greater impact on our allies.”
The move infuriated Republicans, who have long called for removing Russia’s privileged trading status. But many of them still supported the bill, arguing that it would send an important message to Moscow.
“The Russian oil ban alone, I think, deserves our support,” said Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, the top Republican on the Ways and Means Committee. “But I will urge Congress to do more to revoke Russia’s special trade status and unleash America’s own ability to be energy independent.”
Luke Broadwater contributed report.