Senate Approves $40 Billion Aid Package for Ukraine

Senate Approves $40 Billion Aid Package for Ukraine

Reuters/Erin Scott

The Senate approved a $40 billion aid package for Ukraine Thursday, sending the bill to President Joe Biden, who is expected to sign it shortly.

The vote was 86 to 11, with all the no votes coming from Republicans.

The bill was delayed for a week by Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who questioned the bill’s constitutionality and cost, and who wanted the legislation to include language appointing an independent inspector general to oversee the funding. While Paul’s delaying tactics were ultimately unsuccessful, the senator remained defiant Thursday, tweeting, “If Congress really believed giving Ukraine $40B was in our national interest, they could easily pay for it by taxing every income taxpayer $500. My guess is they choose to borrow the $ [because] Americans might just decide they need the $500 more to pay for gas.”

The 10 other Republican senators who voted against the bill were Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, John Boozman of Arkansas, Mike Braun of Indiana, Mike Crapo of Idaho, Bill Hagerty of Tennessee, Josh Hawley of Missouri, Mike Lee of Utah, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, Roger Marshall of Kansas and Tommy Tuberville of Alabama.

The politics of the vote: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer accused the bill’s Republican opponents of siding with the isolationist wing of the party led by Donald Trump, to the detriment of American national interests. “It appears more and more MAGA Republicans are on the same soft-on-Putin playbook that we saw used by former President Trump,” Schumer said. “Our adversaries might conclude that we’re divided — America is divided. They might conclude that we lack purpose.”

Still, a majority of Republicans voted in favor of the bill, joining Democrats to support Ukraine following its invasion by Russia and signaling their distance from the isolationists on the matter. “Today the Senate will approve more lethal assistance for Ukraine, and it’s going to be a big bipartisan landslide. I encourage every senator on both sides to join this bipartisan supermajority,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday morning. “The most expensive and painful thing America could possibly do in the long run would be to stop investing in sovereignty, stability and deterrence before it’s too late.”

“Anyone concerned about the cost of supporting a Ukrainian victory should consider the much larger cost should Ukraine lose,” McConnell added.

Biden commended lawmakers for passing the aid package. “I applaud the Congress for sending a clear bipartisan message to the world that the people of the United States stand together with the brave people of Ukraine as they defend their democracy and freedom,” the president said in a statement. “The resources that I requested will allow us to send even more weapons and ammunition to Ukraine, replenish our own stockpile, and support U.S. troops stationed on NATO territory.”

What’s in the bill: The $40 billion aid package dwarfs previous U.S. efforts to assist Ukraine, which is approaching its fourth month of war against Russian forces. Substantially exceeding the $33 billion originally requested by the White House, the package provides both military and humanitarian assistance, including:

* $6 billion for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which provides “training, equipment, weapons, logistics support, supplies and services, salaries and stipends, sustainment, and intelligence support to the military and national security forces of Ukraine,” according to a fact sheet from the House Appropriations Committee,

* $9 billion to replenish arms sent to Ukraine from U.S. stockpiles,

* $3.9 billion to support U.S. and allied troops in Europe,

* $8 billion in economic support for Ukraine;  

* $5 billion in food aid, in response to possible shortages worldwide caused by the war,

* $900 million to support refugees from the war.

More aid likely: With the war in Ukraine expected to continue for months, many lawmakers think Congress will move to provide additional aid.

“I’m sure there will be more to come,” said Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), who sits on the Appropriations Committee. “If the war goes on, it’s going to cost. Weapons — they use them up every day. We can’t turn our backs on them.”

As if to prove the point, soon after the Senate passed the $40 billion aid package, the Biden administration announced the release of another $100 million in military assistance for Ukraine, in including additional artillery and radar equipment.