In a rare address to the nation from the Oval Office Thursday night, President Joe Biden announced that he is requesting billions of dollars from Congress to aid Israel and Ukraine, enhance security at the southern border, and boost security in the Indo-Pacific region.
Biden framed the request as a matter of national security for the U.S. “You know, history has taught us that when terrorists don’t pay a price for their terror, when dictators don’t pay a price for their aggression, they cause more chaos and death and more destruction. They keep going,” he said. “And the cost and the threats to America and the world keep rising.”
Biden added that the funds would be “a smart investment that’s going pay dividends for American security for generations, help us keep American troops out of harm’s way, help us build a world that is safer, more peaceful and more prosperous for our children and grandchildren.”
According to details released by the White House Friday, the total request includes:
* $61.4 billion for additional military and economic assistance for Ukraine, which has been defending itself against a Russian invasion since February 2022;
* $14.3 billion for military assistance for Israel, which is battling the Islamist militant group Hamas in Gaza following a terrorist attack on Israel two weeks ago;
* $14 billion for border security and enforcement, including the hiring of 1,300 additional border patrol agents, 1,600 additional asylum officers and 375 new immigration judge teams, as well as the deployment of new scanning machines to help detect fentanyl at points of entry on the border;
* $9.15 billion for humanitarian assistance, targeting civilians affected by the wars in Ukraine and Israel;
* $4 billion to counter China’s influence among developing nations and in the Indo-Pacific region; and
* $3.4 billion to enhance the industrial base focused on submarine construction.
The largest component of the supplemental funding request is for Ukraine, and the White House says the amount requested is intended to provide a full year of support for the country. About $45 billion of the funding will go toward military aid, with the rest targeting economic and humanitarian issues.
Tough battles ahead: The Democratic-controlled Senate is expected to take up the aid package quickly, though not without controversy. Eight Republican senators wrote a letter Thursday expressing their opposition to any legislation that combines aid for Israel and Ukraine. “These are two separate and unrelated conflicts and it would be wrong to leverage support of aid to Israel in an attempt to get additional aid for Ukraine across the finish line,” the senators wrote.
Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, also raised questions about the funding for border security. “How are we going to settle our differences over immigration in the next two weeks?” he said, per the Associated Press. “This is a supplemental funding bill. The minute you start loading it up with policies, that sounds like a plan to fail.”
The bill’s fate in the House is even less certain. The House currently lacks a speaker, and the aid package cannot pass until the leadership issue that has torn the Republican caucus apart is resolved. In addition, although there will likely be plenty of support for aid to Israel, there is growing resistance among House Republicans to providing additional aid to Ukraine.
Rep. Roger Williams, a Republican from Texas, said Friday that the Biden request is “a little disturbing” because it mixes different needs. “You can’t blend the two together,” he said, referring to aid for Israel and Ukraine.
The bottom line: The White House is seeking quick action on important matters in a world overflowing with conflict, but it’s not clear that Congress is capable of doing anything in a timely manner right now.