Republicans and Democrats warn there are many issues that need to be sorted out over President Joe Biden’s Ukraine supplemental funding request that officially came Thursday – including drafting the legislative language – and the whole process could take weeks until there are final votes in both chambers.
Biden formally asked Congress for a $33 billion supplemental funding bill aimed at supporting Ukraine over the next several months as Russia’s brutal and unrelenting war enters a new phase. He outlined a proposal that would further pressure Russian oligarchs over the war in Ukraine, including using money from their seized assets to fund Ukraine’s defense.
Democratic leadership’s goal, aides told CNN, is to pass this package before the Memorial Day recess. But there are added complications to sort out – namely what to do with a stalled Covid-19 funding package. Additionally, House lawmakers are in recess next week likely further stalling when they can take up the legislation for a vote.
A House Democratic leadership aide cooled expectations on the timeline, signaling Biden’s supplemental request still has a long road ahead in both chambers.
“There will be bicameral, bipartisan talks on the supplemental request. Language must also be drafted,” the aide told CNN. “It is also unresolved which Chamber will work to advance the supplemental first. This will not be an instant process.”
GOP senators raise questions about the request
In a sign of the potential roadblocks ahead, many Republicans are already signaling they need more information about Biden’s supplemental before they could commit to voting on it in the Senate.
Republicans are still going through the President’s supplemental for Ukraine, but Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, says he has concerns about a provision in the package that deals with the International Monetary Fund that Republicans and Democrats have been fighting over for months.
Risch said many Republicans are still inclined to support the package but he warned that Republicans want to take a few days to consider more carefully what is included.
“I have to go through the details,” GOP Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said. “I don’t fixate as much on the amount. It’s more about what is it that you intend to provide to them? Is it what they need right now for the foreseeable future?”
Another divide emerging is Republicans view the high price tag for the humanitarian aid as potentially being misdirected. Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, who traveled to Ukraine during the recess, told reporters that he believes the better place to spend the money is on military assistance.
“The war crimes that are being committed as we speak won’t end until Ukraine wins this war. So while humanitarian aid is very important, the most important thing Ukrainians want is lethal aid to beat the Russians. I am not convinced the White House understands that,” Daines said.
“I want to know what we are investing in. I want to make sure between lethal aid and humanitarian aid, it is actually getting where it’s supposed to go. The devil is in the details,” Ernst said.
Meanwhile, Sen. Roger Wicker, a Republican from Mississippi, said he’s comfortable with the package’s price tag.
“We need to send a strong signal that we intend for Ukraine to win this war against Vladimir Putin’s illegal war crimes,” Wicker said.
While members on both sides recognize there is an urgency to pass this legislation quickly, the mechanics of how this gets through the House and Senate are still very much in flux with some Democrats still insisting money should be wrapped into one package with Covid-19 relief money that has been held up over Biden’s repeal of the Title 42 immigration policy.
“It needs to be done,” Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington, said.
Republicans, including GOP Senate Whip John Thune of South Dakota, have already said that including the Covid-19 funding is a nonstarter.