Senate passes $40B Ukraine aid package

The Senate on Thursday passed President Biden’s $40 billion military and humanitarian aid package after a series of partisan battles delayed its consideration for a week.

The Senate approved the package to send it to President Biden’s desk by a vote of 86 to 11, and is expected to be signed later this week. Overall, more than 30 Republicans joined all 50 Senate Democrats in support of the measure, while 11 Republicans voted against it.

“Today, the U.S. Senate will keep its promise to stand with the people of Ukraine,” said Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York. “It’s a big package that will meet the enormous needs of the Ukrainian people fighting for their survival.”

Its passage coincides with the Pentagon’s public warning that it could exhaust its ability to provide arms and aid to Ukraine as early as this week. The package is $7 billion more than the White House initially requested. Lawmakers have opted to boost military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

Specifically, the package allocates $11 billion for the Defense Department to ship weapons directly to Ukraine from its stockpiles. Lawmakers said the move would simplify the flow of weapons to the besieged country to deter a Russian invasion.

“Javelins, stingers, howitzers and other tools critical to battlefield victory are helping,” Mr. Schumer said.

At least $9 billion of the entire package will be used to backfill weapons and resources that the White House has already sent to Ukraine. Another $6 billion will be used to support the Pentagon’s main funding for arming Ukraine.

Nearly $4 billion will be used to deploy troops and equipment to neighboring NATO countries in case Russia chooses to escalate the war. The bill also includes $67 million for the Justice Department to seize and sell U.S. assets of Russian oligarchs sanctioned for their ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Overall, the passage of the legislation raised the total cost of U.S. taxpayers’ commitment to Ukraine to $54 billion. The sum includes $13.6 billion in aid that Congress authorized in March shortly after the Russian invasion.

Republicans say the figure, which accounts for nearly 5 percent of the overall U.S. national security budget, is too high—$6 billion more than total spending on foreign and military aid in 2019.

“We cannot save Ukraine by destroying the American economy,” said Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky. “Isn’t there a more fiscally responsible way to do this?”

Opponents, such as Mr Paul, have highlighted the bill’s total cost and what they see as insufficient accountability measures for delays in pushing the bill. Mr Paul has used a series of legislative processes to block fast-track consideration of the package unless it contains language to create a special inspector general to monitor the use of funds.

However, the effort was thwarted by Senate Democrats. Mr. Schumer refused to compromise, arguing that since the bill had passed the House, if any amendments were allowed, it would have to go back to that chamber.

“This should have been done, and it should have ended, but it is disgusting that a member of the other party, the junior senator from Kentucky, chose to make a show and obstruct Ukraine’s funding,” Mr. Schumer said.

With Mr. Paul refusing to acquiesce and Mr. Schumer unwilling to compromise, lawmakers were forced to delay the bill for a week.

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