WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Thursday will ask Congress to provide more than $13 billion in emergency aid to Ukraine, another massive infusion of cash as the Russian invasion wears on and Ukraine pushes a counteroffensive against the Kremlin’s deeply entrenched forces, a person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press.
Seeking GOP Support
The last such request from the White House, made in November, was met and then some — Congress approved more than what the Democratic president had requested. But there’s a different dynamic this time. A political divide on the issue has grown, with the Republican-led House facing enormous pressure to demonstrate support for the party’s leader, Donald Trump, who has been very skeptical of the war. And American support for the effort has been slowly softening.
The White House also is expected to ask for $12 billion to replenish federal disaster funds, according to the person, who was not authorized to speak publicly about a request that had not yet been made public and spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.
The emerging package also is likely to be bolstered with funds for other domestic needs, which could provide a way to draw in broader political support from Republicans.
Biden and his senior national security team have repeatedly said the United States will help Ukraine “as long as it takes” to oust Russia from its borders. Privately, administration officials have warned Ukrainian officials that there is a limit to the patience of a narrowly divided Congress — and American public — for the costs of a war with no clear end.
Backing for Ukraine Softening
Support among the American public for providing Ukraine weaponry and direct economic assistance has softened with time. An AP-NORC poll conducted in January 2023 around the one-year mark of the conflict, found that 48% favored the U.S. providing weapons to Ukraine, down from the 60% of U.S. adults who were in favor sending Ukraine weapons in May 2022. While Democrats have generally been more supportive than Republicans of offering weaponry, their support dropped slightly from 71% to 63% in the same period. Republicans’ support dropped more, from 53% to 39%.
Dozens of Republicans in the House and some GOP senators have expressed reservations, and even voted against, spending more federal dollars for the war effort. Many of those Republicans are aligning with Trump’s objections to the U.S. involvement overseas.
That means any final vote on Ukraine aid will likely need to rely on a hefty coalition led by Democrats from Biden’s party to ensure approval.
To ease passage, Congress would likely try to attach the package to a must-pass measure for broader government funding in the U.S. that’s needed by Oct. 1 to prevent any shutdown in federal offices.
Members of Congress have repeatedly pressed Defense Department leaders on how closely the U.S. is tracking its aid to Ukraine to ensure that it is not subject to fraud or ending up in the wrong hands. The Pentagon has said it has a “robust program” to track the aid as it crosses the border into Ukraine and to keep tabs on it once it is there, depending on the sensitivity of each weapons system.
Last month, the Pentagon said it had overestimated the value of the weapons it has sent to Ukraine by $6.2 billion — about double early estimates — resulting in a surplus that will be used for future security packages.
“We have seen throughout this solid support from the American people, solid support from the Congress in a bipartisan way,” Kirby said. “We’re going to stay focused on that because it’s important. not just important to the people of Ukraine,, but it’s important to our European allies and partners, particularly our NATO allies, given that this fighting is on the doorstep of many of those NATO allies.”
Ukraine is pushing through with its ongoing counteroffensive, in an effort to dislodge the Kremlin’s forces from territory they’ve occupied since a full-scale invasion in February 2022. The counteroffensive has come up against heavily mined terrain and reinforced defensive fortifications.
Meanwhile, Russian air defense systems on Thursday shot down two drones heading to Moscow for the second straight day as Ukraine appeared to step up its assault.
The U.S. has approved four rounds of aid to Ukraine in response to Russia’s invasion, totaling about $113 billion, with some of that money going toward replenishment of U.S. military equipment that was sent to the frontlines. Congress approved the latest round of aid in December, totaling roughly $45 billion for Ukraine and NATO allies. While the package was designed to last through the end of the fiscal year in September, much depends upon events on the ground.
McCarthy Facing Pressure
At the time, there were questions whether House Speaker Kevin McCarthy would approve the package, but it ultimately passed. Now, though, McCarthy is facing pressure to impeach Biden over unproven claims of financial misconduct and it’s not clear whether a quick show of support for Ukraine could cause political damage in what’s expected to be a bruising 2024 reelection campaign.
Trump contends that American involvement has only drawn Russia closer to other adversarial states like China, and has condemned the tens of billions of dollars that the United States has provided in aid for Ukraine. Trump is in increasing legal peril, facing criminal charges in three separate cases.