WASHINGTON – Two of President Joe Biden’s top advisers will try to convince U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday that it is in the country’s best interest to provide billions more dollars to Ukraine and Israel despite huge budget deficits and divisions over his administration’s policies toward both countries.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will testify to the Senate Appropriations Committee on Biden’s request for $106 billion to fund ambitious plans for Ukraine, Israel and U.S. border security.
Arguing that supporting U.S. partners is vital to national security, Biden requested $61.4 billion for Ukraine, about half of which would be spent in the United States to replenish weapons stocks drained by previous support for Kyiv.
Biden also asked for $14.3 billion for Israel, $9 billion for humanitarian relief — including for Israel and Gaza — $13.6 billion for U.S. border security, $4 billion in military assistance and government financing to counter China’s regional efforts in Asia.
Congress has already approved $113 billion for Ukraine since Russia invaded in February 2022, but Biden’s $24 billion request for more funds in August never moved ahead. The White House has said it has less than $5.5 billion in funds to continue transferring weapons from U.S. stockpiles to Ukrainian forces fighting Russia.
The path forward for Biden’s latest funding plan looks uncertain. Democrats – and many Republicans – in the Democratic-majority Senate back Biden’s strategy of combining Ukraine aid with support for Israel.
“This is a moment for swift and decisive action to prevent further loss of life and to impose real consequences on the tyrants who have terrorized the people of Ukraine and of Israel,” Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said on Monday at the University of Louisville.
But Republicans who lead the House of Representatives object to combining the two issues, joined by a smaller number of party members in the Senate. Opinion polls show public support for Ukraine aid declining and many Republicans, particularly those most closely aligned with former President Donald Trump, have come out against it.
With federal spending fueled by $31.4 trillion in debt, they question whether Washington should be funding Ukraine’s war with Russia, rather than backing Israel or boosting efforts to push back against a rising China.
Newly elected House Speaker Mike Johnson has voted in the past against assistance for Kyiv. On Monday, he introduced a bill to provide $14.3 billion in aid to Israel by cutting funding for the Internal Revenue Service, setting up a showdown with Senate Democrats.
Johnson only became speaker after a three-week stalemate in the House after former Speaker Kevin McCarthy was ousted partly because he worked with Democrats to pass a government funding bill.
Biden’s support for Israel, which already receives $3.8 billion in annual U.S. military assistance, has drawn criticism amid international appeals for Gaza civilians to be protected.
Palestinian authorities say that Israel’s “total siege” of Gaza since that rampage has killed more than 8,300 people, more than 3,400 of them minors, and left a dire need for fuel, food and clean water.
Israel this week launched a ground offensive in the Gaza Strip as it strikes back at Islamist Hamas militants who killed 1,400 people and took at least 240 hostages in a rampage on Oct. 7. REUTERS
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