The Senate approved on Thursday more than $40 billion in additional humanitarian and military assistance for Ukraine, with the last aid package due to run out this week.
The bill, which is now heading to President Joe Biden for his signature, is triple the amount of aid the United States has already committed to the war-torn country trying to fend off the Russian invasion. . It passed 86-11, with most Republicans joining all Democrats in endorsing the bill.
The aid package “will address the significant needs of the Ukrainian people as they struggle to survive,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., said just before the vote. “This is a fight we cannot turn away from. By voting for this emergency aid, the Senate can now say to the Ukrainian people: ‘Help is on the way.’
The amount approved Thursday is $7 billion more than Biden originally requested. The package includes more than $20 billion for the Pentagon to provide weapons, intelligence and training, and nearly $14 billion for the State Department for food aid, refugee assistance and d other diplomatic programs.
In addition to the $13.6 billion voted in March, the combined $53.7 billion approved by Congress this year accounts for about 81% of Russia’s defense budget for 2021. And that’s more than a quarter of the size of Ukraine’s pre-war economy.
In a rare show of bipartisanship, Schumer and GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., urged senators to quickly approve funding as administration officials warned the previous round of aid would dry up this week.
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, in a joint letter, urged the Senate to “act quickly” as aid is expected to run out on Thursday. The two cabinet members promised Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on a trip to kyiv last month that more help was forthcoming.
Passage of the bill was delayed for several days because Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky., objected, saying the nation was already too indebted to further fund Ukraine.
“If we don’t put an end to the tax madness, a day of judgment awaits us,” Paul said Monday.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy said Paul “caused unnecessary delay” by delaying a bill with broad bipartisan support.
In March, Congress approved $13.6 billion for Ukraine, including $6.5 billion to help replenish Ukraine’s arsenal, place US troops in the region and provide intelligence support.
Nearly $6 billion has been dedicated to humanitarian and economic support for the region.
Contributor: Maureen Groppe