Explainer-What’s at stake in the US Congress’ debate over Ukraine aid?

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WASHINGTON – Congress included no new money for Ukraine in the stopgap US spending Bill it passed on Saturday to keep the federal government open, highlighting the increasing reluctance of some Republicans to provide funds for Kyiv.

How much US money is still available?

Congress has approved US$113 billion (S$155 billion) in military, economic and humanitarian assistance for Ukraine since Russia invaded in February 2022, according to the Congressional Research Service.

A US official said that, as of Monday, the Defence Department had US$1.6 billion left to replace weapons sent to Ukraine, no funds left under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) and US$5.4 billion worth of Presidential Drawdown Authority, which allows President Joe Biden, a Democrat, to dip into US defence stocks to arm Ukraine.

Why is Congress debating whether to continue Ukraine aid?

While public opinion polls show that most Americans still back aid for Ukraine, that support is eroding.

A relatively small but vocal group of Republicans has criticised Ukraine assistance from the start, accusing the government in Kyiv of failing to sufficiently fight corruption, which Ukrainian and US officials deny. They also argue that as the US faces steep budget deficits, the federal government should be spending money at home or to boost its ability to compete with China.

Many of these Republicans are closely tied to former president Donald Trump, the frontrunner to be the party’s nominee in the 2024 election. Trump, who was impeached in 2019 for holding up Ukraine aide to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to help him politically, has said he would end the war in 24 hours if he wins and that the fight is more important for Europe than the United States.

How might this get resolved?

There are a couple of ways that additional aid for Ukraine could become law.

It could be included in a larger spending Bill, which Congress must pass later this year to avoid a shutdown. The measure passed on Saturday provides spending only until mid-November. Or it could be offered as a separate spending Bill, either on its own, or combined with more money for border security.

How likely is the US to continue supporting Ukraine at the same level going forward?

Democrats, who strongly support aid to Ukraine, insist that Congress will back continued assistance. Many Senate Republicans, including influential figures like Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, also say so.

But the picture is much less clear in the House of Representatives, where Republicans hold a majority and where a few far-right members are seeking the ouster of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, citing his willingness to compromise with Democrats on spending Bills. REUTERS

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