US House passes $56b Bill to bolster Ukraine against Russian invasion

This comes after President Joe Biden asked Congress to approve an additional US$33 billion Ukraine aid late last month. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The US House of Representatives approved more than US$40 billion (S$56 billion) more aid for Ukraine on Tuesday (May 10), as Congress races to keep military aid flowing and boost the government in Kyiv as it grapples with the Russian invasion.

The House passed the Ukraine spending Bill by 368 to 57, with every ‘no’ vote coming from Republicans. The measure now heads to the Senate, which is expected to act quickly within the coming days, as Washington increases its support for Ukraine without sending troops to help fend off Russian troops who invaded on Feb 24.

President Joe Biden asked Congress to approve an additional US$33 billion in aid for Ukraine late last month, but lawmakers decided to add more military and humanitarian aid.

“This Bill will protect democracy, limit Russian aggression, and strengthen our own national security, while, most importantly, supporting Ukraine,” Democratic Representative Rosa DeLauro, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, said as she urged support for the spending package.

"Time is of the essence - and we cannot afford to wait," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a letter to House members before the vote. "This package, which builds on the robust support already secured by Congress, will be pivotal in helping Ukraine defend not only its nation but democracy for the world."

After sending the letter, Ms Pelosi met with Mr Biden at the White House to discuss her recent visit to Ukraine.

The president had demanded that Congress get the Bill to him quickly.

Some Republicans opposed the Bill, criticising Democrats for moving too quickly to send too many US taxpayer dollars abroad. Mr Biden’s fellow Democrats narrowly control Congress, but the Bill will need Republican votes to get through the Senate.

Ms Oksana Markarova, Ukraine's ambassador to the United States, met with both Democratic and Republican senators at their weekly party lunches on Tuesday.

"It was a very heartfelt and easy to understand message: Their people are dying, they're running out of supplies and ammunition. They need our help quickly. Thank you for all our help. Please. Speed it up," Democratic Senator Dick Durbin said.

Republican Senator Rob Portman, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and leader of the Senate Ukraine caucus, said he expected enough Republican backing for the Bill to get it through the Senate.

“I think it will pass. There will be significant Republican support,” he said.

The package includes US$6 billion for security assistance, including training, equipment, weapons and support; US$8.7 billion to replenish stocks of US equipment sent to Ukraine, and US$3.9 billion for European Command operations.

In addition to that spending, the legislation authorises an additional US$11 billion in Presidential Drawdown Authority, in which the president can authorise the transfer of articles and services from US stocks without congressional approval in response to an emergency.

Mr Biden had asked for US$5 billion.

And it authorises US$4 billion in Foreign Military Financing to provide support for Ukraine and other countries affected by the crisis.

The US has already rushed billions of dollars worth of armaments to Ukraine since Russia invaded, including howitzers, anti-aircraft Stinger systems, anti-tank Javelin missiles, ammunition and recently-disclosed "Ghost" drones.

The new aid package also includes humanitarian aid - US$5 billion to address food insecurity globally due to the Ukraine crisis and nearly US$9 billion for an economic support fund to provide budget support for Ukraine.

It provides hundreds of millions of dollars to help refugees and fund efforts to seize the assets of oligarchs linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose government has called the invasion of Ukraine a “special military operation”.

The war has killed thousands of civilians, forced millions of Ukrainians from their homes and reduced cities to rubble. Moscow has little to show for it beyond a strip of territory in the south and marginal gains in the east. 

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