Lawmakers in the US House omitted further aid to Ukraine from a proposal that would keep the government open, signaling that support for funding its fight against the Russian invasion is getting harder.
(Bloomberg) — Lawmakers in the US House omitted further aid to Ukraine from a proposal that would keep the government open, signaling that support for funding its fight against the Russian invasion is getting harder.
The decision Saturday to scuttle the aid — at least for now — is a blow to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who last week met with President Joe Biden and lawmakers and personally pleaded for new weapons systems, including F-16 fighter jets and longer-range ATACMS missiles.
Biden’s administration and senior Republicans sought to reassure Ukraine that US military aid won’t stop after House Democrats and Republicans joined to pass the short-term spending bill that left out $6 billion for the country’s push to retake Russian-occupied territory. The assistance may be supplied in a separate bill down the road.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy indicated he would try to tie the aid to US border policy changes that Democrats oppose.
Senator Jim Risch, the senior Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, said he’s confident that Ukraine funding will be maintained and there’s “absolutely no question about” Republican support for it.
“It is not the end of the of the appropriation process,” he said. “The Ukraine funding will be in at the end.”
Lawmakers in both parties who support the Ukraine funding said it could be handled separately. A White House official welcomed the House-passed bill and said the Biden administration expects Ukraine aid to be handled separately.
“No one should take this as a message that somehow there’s a reduction in the commitment that the United States made to Ukraine,” Risch said.
Continued backing from the US and its allies is vital for Zelenskiy as his forces struggle to advance against Russian troops still occupying about 17% of his territory, fueling doubts about his ability to oust them completely.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is among Ukraine’s strongest allies. Yet other Republicans, including some who support the country’s fight more broadly, didn’t want to move ahead with more funding for Kyiv in a short-term bill without dealing with migration at the US border, according to a person familiar with Senate Republicans’ thinking.
There’s also some question about how urgently Ukraine needs additional money, the person said.
The US has supplied some $44 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion in early 2022 and defense officials have warned of the risk of hardware shortfalls, including in the US military’s own stockpile.
The Pentagon has “exhausted nearly all available security assistance funding for Ukraine” and a funding gap would delay or curtail urgent needs, including air defense and ammunition, Comptroller Michael McCord said in a letter to House Democrats on Friday.
Cracks have begun to emerge in the support for Kyiv, with Poland, a key ally, this month threatening to suspend arms deliveries in a dispute over grain shipments. At the same time, Zelenskiy’s efforts to win over major countries of the developing world at the United Nations General Assembly last week yielded few visible results.
McCarthy, who has asked for accountability of money that has already gone to Ukraine, told reporters last week that he rejected Zelenskiy’s request to address Congress again because lawmakers didn’t have time in a “busy week.”
Hardliners in McCarthy’s party have said the US would be better served directing more money to the US military to better prepare for any direct fight against China or Russia.
McCarthy’s decision to defy ultraconservatives on the short-term spending bill could free him from the grip of the far right.
(Updates with reluctance among Senate Republicans in 10th paragraph. An earlier version corrected the timing of Poland’s suspension.)
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