Biden signs stopgap spending Bill with $17.6b in aid to Ukraine

The package included a third tranche of aid to Ukraine for its battle with Russia. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

WASHINGTON - Congress gave final approval Friday to a short-term spending package to keep the government open through mid-December and President Joe Biden signed it soon afterward, staving off a midnight shutdown and sending about US$12.3 billion (S$17.6 billion) in military and economic aid to Ukraine.

The House of Representatives passed the measure less than 12 hours before funding was set to lapse. It will keep the government open through Dec 16, giving lawmakers time to iron out their considerable differences over the dozen annual spending Bills.

The package included a third tranche of aid to Ukraine for its battle with Russia, on top of a total of about US$54 billion approved earlier this year.

With Friday's vote, Congress has now committed more military aid to Ukraine than it has to any country in a single year since the Vietnam War, reflecting a remarkable bipartisan consensus in favour of pouring huge amounts of US resources into the fight as the nation seeks to reclaim more of its territory from Russia.

Still, most House Republicans opposed the measure, which passed on a largely party-line vote of 230-201. Ten Republicans joined every present Democrat in voting for the legislation.

Passage of the Bill met the last legislative deadline facing Congress before the November midterm elections. Lawmakers, eager to return to the campaign trail, vowed to address outstanding disputes in the annual legislation as part of an increasingly packed to-do list for when the House and Senate return in November.

"The investments included in this Bill are urgent and necessary to avoid disruptions to vital federal agencies, to help communities get back on their feet, to ensure we have the time needed to negotiate a final funding agreement that meets the needs of hardworking people," said Representative Rosa DeLauro, chair of the appropriations committee.

Republican leaders, however, counselled their conference to oppose the package. Although several Senate Republicans supported the package when it passed that chamber Thursday, House Republicans argued that it did little to address their priorities, including providing a substantial increase for the military and shoring up resources at the southern border.

Representative Kay Granger, the top Republican member on the appropriations committee, chastised Democrats for a Bill she said was being "rushed through the House today, with just hours to spare to avoid a government shutdown".

"It's deeply unfortunate that we have once again waited to the last minute to fund the government," said Representative Tom Cole.

Mr Cole, a longtime member of the appropriations panel, added, "We should not be in this situation - both sides have done this; I'll grant my friend that - but this is a particularly egregious process."

But the desire to avoid a government shutdown and to help Ukraine was enough to rally the support needed to pass the measure.

It will allocate US$1.5 billion to replenish weapons and equipment previously sent to the country, while allowing Mr Biden to authorise the transfer of up to US$3.7 billion of US equipment and weapons. It will also provide US$3 billion for equipment, weapons and military support, as well as US$4.5 billion for the Ukrainian government to continue operating throughout the war.

"This package comes at a critical moment," said Speaker Nancy Pelosi, pointing to Ukraine's recent success in reclaiming land that has been seized by Russia and commitments of support she and the Biden administration have made.

"With this supplemental, we take another strong step toward honouring that pledge, our country's pledge," she said. NYTIMES

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