Politics

Senate nears vote on $39.8 billion Ukraine aid bill

Washington — The Senate is poised to vote Thursday on legislation providing another $39.8 billion to help Ukraine bolster its defenses against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion after passage of the aid was stalled last week. 

The measure has already cleared the House with overwhelming bipartisan support, and approval by the Senate will send the bill to President Biden’s desk for his signature. Mr. Biden had urged Congress to approve additional assistance to Ukraine swiftly as earlier authorities to provide military supplies to Ukraine were close to running dry.

“Anyone concerned about the costs of supporting a Ukrainian victory should consider the much larger cost should Ukraine lose,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in remarks on the Senate floor before the vote, urging senators on both sides of the aisle to support the aid package. “The most expensive and painful thing America could possibly do in the long run would be to stop investing in sovereignty, stability and deterrence before it’s too late.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the emergency aid will “meet the large needs of the Ukrainian people as they fight for their survival,” and he lambasted the Senate Republicans who earlier in the week opposed advancing the legislation.

“While most senators in both parties want this package done, it’s beyond troubling to see a growing circle of Senate Republicans proudly oppose Ukrainian funding,” he said. “It appears more and more MAGA Republicans are on the same soft-on-Putin playbook that we saw used by former President Trump.”

The $39.8 billion proposed by Congress for Ukraine is more than the $33 billion in additional security, economic and humanitarian assistance that Mr. Biden requested last month. The measure includes $6 billion to provide training, equipment, weapons and intelligence support to Ukraine’s military forces, $4 billion to Ukraine and other countries affected by Russia’s war, including NATO Eastern flank countries and other partners, and $3.9 billion for U.S. troops in the region.

The package also directs $8.7 billion to the Pentagon to replenish stocks of weapons it’s sent to Ukraine and nearly $8.8 billion to help Ukraine continue its government functions.

There is bipartisan support for the legislation in the Senate, and Democratic and Republican leaders pushed for quick approval of the assistance. But late last week, Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky delayed the measure as he pushed for language to be added to the bill that created a special inspector general position to oversee the Ukraine spending.

The package already requires a Pentagon inspector general to report on spending activities and includes $5 million for oversight at the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Paul ultimately failed to get his language included in the measure, and the Senate on Monday voted to advance the package, 81 to 11. 

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