Biden seeks over $30B in Ukraine assistance from Congress
President Biden is asking Congress to authorize more than $30 billion in additional security, economic and humanitarian assistance for Ukraine to help the country fend off the prolonged Russian attack over the next five months, administration officials said Thursday.
The White House says it needs Congress to approve just over $20 billion in security assistance for Ukraine, including $5 billion for weapons and other military aid, $6 billion for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative and $4 billion for the State Department’s foreign military financing program, an administration official told reporters on a call previewing the request.
Additionally, Biden is asking Congress to approve $8.5 billion more in economic assistance for Ukraine and $3 billion in humanitarian assistance and food security funding, the official said.
“We need this bill to support Ukraine in this fight for freedom,” Biden said in remarks from the White House Thursday. “The cost of this fight, it’s not cheap. But caving to aggression is going to be more costly if we allow it to happen.”
The massive $33 billion request is what the Biden administration says is necessary to help Ukraine’s military defeat a sustained Russian attack over the coming months and address the global impacts of the war. Officials believe the funding will last through the current fiscal year, which ends in September.
“The president’s funding request is what we believe is needed to enable Ukraine’s success over the next five months of this war,” said a second administration official, who warned that the war “could well last months or more.”
The administration is also asking for $500 million to address domestic and international economic stresses related to the war that will go toward helping the U.S. increase production of wheat and other food crops experiencing shortages. And the funding would help officials use the Defense Production Act, a Cold War-era law, to boost domestic production of critical minerals affected by the war.
Congress in March passed bipartisan legislation approving $13.6 billion in additional Ukraine-related assistance, including $3.5 billion in military equipment that the White House says has nearly been exhausted as the U.S. seeks to help Ukraine battle a Russian onslaught that recently entered its third month.
Biden announced the last tranche of $800 million in military assistance — which included heavy artillery, dozens of howitzers and 144,000 rounds of ammunition — just last week.
While Biden has ruled out sending American forces to fight Russians in Ukraine, administration officials believe the aid from the U.S. and its allies has been crucial in helping Ukraine defeat Russian forces who tried to topple the capital, Kyiv.
“Despite having no boots on the ground, our assistance has made a significant difference on the battlefield,” the second administration official said.
There is expected to be bipartisan support in Congress for sending more assistance to Ukraine, but the path toward approving the assistance could prove complicated as the Biden administration also tries to convince lawmakers to approve additional funding for the COVID-19 pandemic response.
An earlier attempt to approve more pandemic preparedness funding was marred by partisan disagreements and Congress eventually took the funding out of a massive package passed in March.
A third administration official told reporters Thursday that Biden would also push for the approval of the coronavirus funds, saying the administration believes it “certainly makes sense” for the COVID-19 and Ukraine funding to “move together” in legislation.
“We’re not going to get too far ahead of the legislative process,” the official said.
Later during his remarks, Biden reiterated his request for $22 billion to fight the pandemic.
“Let’s get both of these critical requests done,” he said.
In response to a reporter’s question, Biden said he didn’t care whether Congress moved the funding requests together or separately but added: “we need them both.”
“I don’t care how they do it. I’m sending them both up,” he said.
In addition to the funding request, Biden is also asking Congress to pass new legislation tightening sanctions enforcement on Russian oligarchs that will allow the administration to use seized funds to assist Ukraine.
This story was updated at 11:39 a.m.