Democrats to propose $39.8 billion in Ukraine aid not linked to COVID aid


Top Democratic appropriators are proposing a $39.8 billion aid package for Ukraine, with increases of $3.4 billion for food and $3.4 billion in additional presidential drawdown authority for military equipment above President Biden’s request, two sources familiar with the offer tell CBS News. The offer was made during negotiations, and had not yet been formally introduced as of Monday afternoon. 

Ukraine aid will not be linked to COVID-19 aid, something many Democrats had hoped for but it likely wouldn’t attract sufficient Republican support. A congressional source said President Biden communicated to congressional leadership that he wants to pass Ukraine aid first without COVID aid, given Senate Republicans’ opposition, and then pass COVID-19 aid as a separate bill. Both bills would originate in the House. 

“Everyone agrees COVID aid would slow this down and admin is days away of running out of Ukraine money,” another source familiar with the discussions said. 

Mr. Biden, who had requested a $33 billion Ukraine aid package, urged Congress on Monday to pass the funding for Ukraine immediately. He said there are about 10 days before funding to support Ukraine’s military efforts dries up. 

“Previously, I had recommended that Congress take overdue action on much needed funding for COVID treatments, vaccines and tests, as part of the Ukraine Supplemental bill,” the president said in a statement on Monday. “However, I have been informed by congressional leaders in both parties that such an addition would slow down action on the urgently needed Ukrainian aid – a view expressed strongly by several congressional Republicans. We cannot afford delay in this vital war effort. Hence, I am prepared to accept that these two measures move separately, so that the Ukrainian aid bill can get to my desk right away.”

The $39.8 billion offer comes from Senator Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, chair of the House Appropriations Committee. A source familiar with the discussions said Ukraine aid could come up for a vote as soon as Tuesday. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last week said he’d be “very likely” to support that much aid, and other Republicans have also signaled likely support. 

“Good — Ukraine aid shouldn’t get bogged down in partisan politics,” GOP Senator Ben Sasse said after the news that Ukraine and COVID won’t be linked. “Aid for Zelensky was less than one percent of the last mega-spending deal that Washington logrolled. This is really simple: If we want Ukraine to win, we need to continue to arm them to the teeth. A clean Ukraine bill will have the votes. Let’s get this done.” 

The Biden administration hopes the proposed Ukraine aid will help the besieged Ukraine for the next five months, which marks the remainder of the fiscal year. 

On Monday, the president signed a bill giving him the authority to lend or lease defense equipment to Ukraine and other Easter European nations. It’s crafted after a World War II-era program that was pivotal in allowing for the allies’ victory against Nazi Germany. 

“The cost of the fight is not cheap but the – caving to aggression is more costly,” Mr. Biden said Monday. “That’s why we’re staying in this.”

A senior defense official told reporters Monday the Russians have made uneven and incremental progress in the Donbas region, although they’ve made “virtually no progress in the south.” The official said the sanctions on Russia are “starting to bite” into Russia’s defense industrial base. For example, Russia is having a difficult time replenishing its precision guided munitions. 

— Eleanor Watson contributed to this report.



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