Congress pushes arming Ukraine over Covid aid to Americans
White House urges Congress to pass both, but weapons for Ukraine are deemed more urgent
Democrats will make a separate $10 billion coronavirus funding proposal so the nearly $40 billion in weapons and other aid to Ukraine could get approved more quickly ahead of a “critical” deadline, US President Joe Biden said on Monday.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) originally had funding for Covid-19 treatments, tests and vaccines tacked onto the $33 billion proposal for supplemental aid to Ukraine. Republicans, who fully backed funding Ukraine but had a problem with how the Covid funding proposal would affect border policy, threatened to block it in the Senate.
In a statement on Monday, Biden said he would accept splitting the bill if that would get the Ukraine funds – which have since grown by another $6.8 billion – approved faster.
“We cannot afford delay in this vital war effort. Hence, I am prepared to accept that these two measures move separately, so that the Ukrainian aid bill can get to my desk right away,” Biden said.
“This aid has been critical to Ukraine’s success on the battlefield. We cannot allow our shipments of assistance to stop while we await further Congressional action. We are approximately ten days from hitting this critical deadline,” he added.
Biden did say helping Americans combat the virus was “equally vital” as helping Ukraine, as “more Americans will die needlessly” without timely funding. The US will also miss out on new treatments and “next-generation vaccines under development,” as well as fall behind on “our effort to help lower-income countries get [covid] vaccines into arms,” the president added.
Democrats wanted to use the Covid funding to get rid of Title 42, a policy that allowed the US to turn away or deport migrants caught crossing the border illegally, on account of the pandemic. Republicans objected.
They did not object to spending more money on Ukraine, however, reportedly agreeing to tack on $3.4 billion in food aid and another $3.4 billion for the US military to replace the equipment Biden sent to Ukraine from the Pentagon stockpiles, according to Roll Call. The Ukraine bill is still being finalized, and could appear in the House as early as Tuesday.
Earlier on Monday, Biden signed the “Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act Of 2022,” a WWII-era scheme to funnel weapons and other equipment to the government in Kiev, approved by Congress at the end of April. The signing was scheduled for the day Russia celebrates as the anniversary of its WWII victory over Nazi Germany – which Biden completely ignored, choosing instead to bring up the 1950 founding of the precursor to the EU, and praise the “Allied nations’ defeat of the scourge of fascism in Europe” on May 8 – the date on which the Nazis surrendered to the US and UK troops on the continent, but not the Soviets.