The US Senate has approved a massive $40 billion budget to fund further aid for Ukraine. The bill, which garnered overwhelming support from both parties, is now in the White House to be signed by President Biden.
For weeks, the Biden administration has called for Congress and the Senate to expedite the approval process of the budget request. The Senate voted 86-11 in favor of the emergency funding, with all objections coming from Republican senators.
Strong bipartisan support for the bill underlines the recognition of both Republican and Democrat lawmakers to help Ukraine in its fight against Russia while refraining from sending US soldiers to fight.
“This is a large package, and it will meet the large needs of the Ukrainian people as they fight for their survival,” Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said.
Before the Senate, the bill first passed the House of Representatives on May 10th. The House voted to advance the budget with a 368-57 vote, with 149 Republicans along with all Democrat representatives voting in favor of the bill. There were 57 Republicans who opposed the aid package.
Biden said that approval of the spending bill would ensure that there would be no gaps in the US’ support for the Ukrainian war effort. He has expressed his gratitude to Congress in a White House statement.
“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.
“The resources that I requested will allow us to send even more weapons and ammunition to Ukraine, replenish our own stockpile, and support US troops stationed on NATO territory,” he added.
Stalled in the Senate
Despite strong bipartisan support, the $40 billion military aid bill got stuck in the Senate after Republican Senator Rand Paul refused to push through with a quick vote. The Democrats hold a slim majority in both the Senate and Congress. However, the Senate mandate requires unanimous approval to allow an expedited process on proposed bills.
Paul’s objection forced the Senate to push through with a week’s worth of bureaucratic obstacles. This infuriated representatives from both parties who intended to fast-track the bill’s approval.
We sent $40 billion out before lunch and they want to send $48 billion more after lunch. It's time to end the bailouts. pic.twitter.com/GzkVZk2oPH
— Senator Rand Paul (@SenRandPaul) May 19, 2022
“This should have already been over and done with, but it is repugnant that one member of the other side… chose to make a show and obstruct Ukraine funding, knowing full well he couldn’t actually stop its passage,” Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer said.
“For Senator Paul to delay Ukraine funding for purely political motives is to only strengthen Putin’s hand.”
Paul tried to defend his stance during a floor speech where he called the initiative “noble” but insisted that it was unconstitutional.
He also claimed that the real threat to US security was the enormous government expenditure that was being burdened on the taxpayer.
“Yes, our national security is threatened – not by Russia’s war on Ukraine but by Congress’s war on the American taxpayer,” he said.
“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.”
President Zelensky welcomed US delegation to Kyiv led by Sen Mitch McConnell today. Zelensky said it’s “a strong signal of bipartisan support for Ukraine.”
“Thank you for your leadership in helping us fight not only for our country, but also for democratic values and freedoms.” pic.twitter.com/amTIudErkb
— Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) May 14, 2022
Paul’s statement resulted in pushback from his fellow Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“The future of America’s security and core strategic interests will be shaped by the outcome of this fight,” McConnell said. He argued that the outcome of the Russo-Ukrainian war would greatly affect security in Europe and the confidence of China.
“Anyone concerned about the cost of supporting a Ukrainian victory should consider the much larger costs should Ukraine lose,” he added.
Cutting It Close
The Senate’s approval came just before the previous budget allocated for Ukraine was about to dry up on May 19th. After Biden signs the bill into law, further funding will bring the total amount of US aid to Ukraine to an astonishing $50 billion.
The latest package provides a combined $20.1 billion in military aid, which is expected to provide Ukraine with more advanced weapon systems like the Patriot anti-air missile system and long-range artillery.
It also includes over $9 billion in economic support for Ukraine, $5 billion to address global food security concerns brought by the war, and $1 billion in general support for refugees.
The package also allocated $3.9 billion for US positions in Europe, particularly for the European Command, and provided Biden with an additional $11 billion in Presidential Drawdown Authority.
So far, the US commitment to defending Ukraine has far outstripped the support it is receiving from NATO countries and the EU.