US congress reaches deal on $14 billion emergency aid to Ukraine

Much of the assistance will be focused on humanitarian aid, lawmakers say

John Bowden
Tuesday 08 March 2022 22:19
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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced a deal between the two parties to provide $14 bn in additional assistance to Ukraine on Tuesday while lashing out at Democrats over the speed of negotiations.

Speaking at a news conference, Mr McConnell announced the settled-upon figure before claiming it had been like “pulling teeth” negotiating a higher dollar-value with Democrats, whom he said were willing to block passage of the bill. Some progressives have raised questions about the scale of weapons shipments being sent to militia groups aligned with Ukraine’s government some of whom experts have warned have white nationalist ideologies.

"It's been like pulling teeth to get out of House Democrats what the Ukrainians obviously need at this particular time," said Mr McConnell.

After calling the pace of negotiations “much too slow”, Mr McConnell urged the Senate to pass it quickly once legislation came through the House.

“It needs to be passed, and it needs to be passed quickly,” he said.

The dollar figure is much higher than what the Biden administration originally suggested in February — which was around $6 bn — and also several billion dollars more than what the White House formally requested from Congress last week.

The final text of the bill will drop in the coming hours, and it will be at that point when an exact dollar breakdown of the aid will be available. But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer indicated to reporters that a large portion will be put aside for humanitarian aid. The White House originally wanted $4.25 bn in economic and humanitarian assistance alongside $4.8 bn in funding for the Pentagon, which would go towards a number of purposes including replenishing weapons shipments to Ukraine, such as Stinger missiles, which the country’s fighting forces have used up in their fight against Russia’s invasion.

Members of both parties have put aside political bickering (for the most part) on the issue of Ukraine and come together to come up with legislation with the intent of both aiding Ukraine and isolating Russia in the global economy. Some Republicans have blamed the Biden administration for not projecting a stronger image on the world stage, which they have said is the reason Vladimir Putin felt comfortable launching an invasion; their criticism has been somewhat blunted as a handful of prominent figures on the far right have expressed open support for Russia’s government.

Tuesday’s news of a deal that exceeds the White House’s request follows a pattern of Congress outpacing the Executive Branch on the issue of the Ukraine-Russia crisis, as lawmakers were also the first to call for a ban on energy shipments from Russia while the White House still publicly opposed the idea.

Some lawmakers have gone a step further and called for the implementation of a no-fly-zone by Nato over Ukraine’s airspace, a decision most experts agree would draw the US into a situation that could very likely result in direct combat with Russian forces.

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