WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Thursday, the Senate easily approved a $40 billion military and economic aid package for Ukraine and its allies, with both parties rallying behind America’s latest, and most likely not final, financial salvo against Russia’s incursion.
Three weeks after President Joe Biden proposed a reduced $33 billion version and after a lone Republican opponent delayed Senate ratification for a week, the package received final congressional approval with an 86-11 vote. The bill was supported by every voting Democrat and all but 11 Republicans in the chamber, including many supporters of former President Donald Trump’s isolationist agenda.
Biden’s rapid signature was unavoidable as Russia’s war on Ukraine’s soldiers and cities enters its fourth month with no clear end in sight. This means more deaths and destruction in Ukraine, which has relied significantly on US and Western help, particularly advanced weapons, to survive, with requests for additional aid likely.
“Help is on the way, and it’s going to be huge.” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., highlighted a goal that seemed practically unachievable when Russia launched its violent campaign in February.
The vote was a notable exception to the ideological divides that have hampered cooperation on other matters under Biden’s leadership, and that are only expected to worsen as the November elections for control of Congress approach. Republicans are preventing Democrats from placing billions in the plan to address the epidemic, putting their attempts to attack COVID-19 in jeopardy.
The House passed the Ukraine bill 368-57 last Thursday, with all of the Republicans voting against it. Though bipartisan support was unmistakable in both chambers, the GOP defections were notable after Trump, still a powerful figure in the party, protested that such funds should be used first to address domestic issues.
Republicans’ opposition to Ukraine help, according to Schumer, is “beyond disturbing.” “It appears that MAGA Republicans are following the same soft-on-Putin approach that we saw utilised by former President Trump,” Schumer added, referring to Democrats’ use of the Make America Great Again slogan to portray Republicans as fanatics.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., a prominent supporter of the bill, addressed GOP colleagues’ concerns. He claimed that the defeat of Ukraine would put America’s European trading partners in jeopardy, raise US security expenses in the region, and inspire autocrats in China and elsewhere to seize territory in their regions.
Republicans opposing Ukraine help, according to Schumer, is “beyond disturbing.” “It appears more and more that MAGA Republicans are following former President Trump’s soft-on-Putin strategy,” Schumer said, referring to Democrats’ use of the Make America Great Again slogan to portray Republicans as extremists.
Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., a staunch supporter of the bill, addressed concerns raised by his Republican colleagues. He claimed that the defeat of Ukraine would threaten America’s European economic allies, raise US security expenses in the region, and inspire autocrats in China and elsewhere to seize territory in their areas.
The plan includes $24 billion for weapons, equipment, and military financing for Ukraine, as well as replacing Pentagon stocks of munitions supplied to the region and funding U.S. reinforcements. Economic aid to keep Zelenskyy’s administration running, food programmes for countries reliant on Ukraine’s declining crop production, refugee assistance, and funds for Kyiv to investigate Russian war crimes are among the remaining items.
In March, Congress passed a $13.6 billion budget bill. According to the independent Congressional Research Service, the total cost of approximately $54 billion exceeds what the US spent on all foreign and military aid in 2019.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., a long-time non-interventionist, used procedural manoeuvres last week to prevent Schumer and McConnell from getting the bill through the Senate, citing Ukraine’s urgent need for aid.
Schumer, in a rare personal attack on the Senate floor, branded Paul’s approach “repugnant” and claimed the delay, with ratification looming, would “strengthen Putin’s hand.” McConnell, who met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy last Saturday on a surprise visit to Kyiv, remained silent in support of his Kentucky Republican colleague.
Paul answered in a brief interview that disparaging “the democratic process” as contained in Senate rules that he was utilising would be “repugnant.”
On Wednesday, some Trump-supporting Republicans in Congress expressed reservations about the spending.
“The world is going to end if you don’t do something here,” said Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., who announced he would vote against the Ukraine bill. “I’m more concerned about the Medicare trust fund and the Social Security trust fund going bankrupt.”
Braun has long advocated for bills that pay for themselves, according to him. “Number one, it’s going to pass,” he responded when asked why saving $40 billion outweighed preventing Russia in this case.
“If Putin wins, the implications for America and American taxpayers will be hundreds of billions of dollars,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who added that as expensive as the proposal is, it will defend US national security.
With an interview, Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, a centrist who has clashed with Trump, said that assisting Ukraine in its defence “is about as sensible an investment as we could possibly make.” “What does America First mean?” he continued. It implies that we should prioritise the interests of the United States. “I completely agree.”