White House Warns: ‘We Are Out of Money’ for Ukraine

White House Warns: ‘We Are Out of Money’ for Ukraine

White House budget director Shalanda Young
By Yuval Rosenberg and Michael Rainey
Monday, December 4, 2023

Good Monday evening! We’re three weeks away from Christmas Day and, incredibly, just six weeks away from the 2024 Iowa caucuses. Before we get to holiday cheer or election dread, here’s what’s happening.

White House Warns Congress: ‘We Are Out of Money’ For Ukraine

The White House warned lawmakers Monday that the U.S. will run out of funds to aid Ukraine in just a few weeks if Congress fails to pass the emergency funding package requested by President Joe Biden in October.

In a letter to congressional leaders, White House budget director Shalanda Young said that “by the end of the year we will run out of resources to procure more weapons and equipment for Ukraine and to provide equipment from U.S. military stocks.” She called on lawmakers to move quickly to provide more funding. “There is no magical pot of funding available to meet this moment,” she wrote. “We are out of money — and nearly out of time.”

Young also warned that the failure to provide the $61 billion in requested funding would “kneecap Ukraine on the battlefield” while “increasing the likelihood of Russian military victories.”

Young noted that Congress has already provided $111 billion “to support Ukraine and critical national security needs,” and that more than half of that total, or about $67 billion, has flowed through the Pentagon to help build up the American defense industrial base or support U.S. military and intelligence operations — part of an effort by the White House to remind lawmakers that aiding Ukraine has significant benefits for the U.S. military and economy.

Complex negotiations: Biden’s roughly $105 billion supplemental request includes additional money for Israel and Indo-Pacific allies, as well as funds for operations at the southern border. Senate negotiators are discussing a single bill that responds to the request, but talks have hit a rough patch over demands that the Biden administration make significant changes in its border policy as part of the overall aid package.

Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, who leads the negotiations for Republicans, said this weekend that he would reject any supplemental package that fails to include major changes in border policy, including more restrictive detention guidelines and new limits on the granting of asylum privileges.

In the House, Speaker Mike Johnson said that while he supports the effort to provide more money for Ukraine, any aid package must include border policy changes similar to those outlined in H.R. 2, which the House passed in May.

In response to Young’s letter, the speaker made it clear that he has multiple concerns about the White House funding request. “The Biden Administration has failed to substantively address any of my conference’s legitimate concerns about the lack of a clear strategy in Ukraine, a path to resolving the conflict, or a plan for adequately ensuring accountability for aid provided by American taxpayers,” he wrote on social media. “Meanwhile, the Administration is continually ignoring the catastrophe at our own border. House Republicans have resolved that any national security supplemental package must begin with our own border.”

Democrats say Republicans are asking for too much and the demands for H.R. 2 policies are non-starters, so talks have all but broken down. “Right now, it seems pretty clear that we’re making pretty big compromises and concessions and Republicans aren’t willing to meet us anywhere close to the middle,” Sen. Chris Murphy, the lead Democrat in the negotiations, said. Murphy added that he sees “no path” to a border deal as things now stand, though he is willing to listen to new ideas.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who hopes to hold a procedural vote on the supplemental package this week, said Monday that Democrats want to reach an agreement, but GOP demands are making it difficult to make a deal. “Progress on the national security package has been on ice for weeks,” he said, “because Republicans have injected partisan and extreme immigration measures into the debate.”

The bottom line: Negotiations over the supplemental spending bill that includes billions for Ukraine are stuck for now as lawmakers wrangle over changes in border policy. Meanwhile, money for Ukraine is running out as the clock ticks down to lawmakers’ long holiday break ahead.

White House Grapples With the Politics of ‘Bidenomics’

NBC News noted last week that President Joe Biden had not publicly used the term “Bidenomics” since November 1, in stark contrast to the 101 times he had included the word in speeches and remarks dating back to June.

The White House and Biden’s re-election campaign have continued to use the term in celebrating economic gains, though as NBC’s Megan Lebowitz, Ghael Fobes and Peter Nicholas pointed out, some Democrats have criticized the branding and Americans haven’t bought it, with just 38% of voters in a mid-November poll saying they approve of Biden’s handling of the economy.

The White House has reportedly pushed back against the media’s focus on the president’s use, or lack of use, of one word rather than on the economic conditions for middle-class families and the policies Biden is pursuing. “You can expect him to continue to talk about Bidenomics and how it’s delivered for the American people,” White House spokesman Michael Kikukawa told The Washington Post

The Post’s Theodoric Meyer and Leigh Ann Caldwell point out that Biden has turned to increasingly criticizing corporate “price gouging” in an effort to address voters’ lingering economic concerns — and that there are signs that the public’s perception of the economy is improving. They also note that new Biden campaign ads “have delivered a triumphal message on the economy, with narrators boasting about ‘our economy leading the world’ and ‘millions of new, good-paying jobs.’” Still, they point out, none of the ads feature the term Bidenomics.

The bottom line: Biden may have dialed back on the term Bidenomics, but he and his team still have some economic successes to tout — and some continuing challenges to address. Moving on from the term Bidenomics may be a wise political move, though: “Because ‘Reaganomics’ seemed to have taken hold, it made some sense to shop ‘Bidenomics.’ But it fell flat,” historian Douglas Brinkley told NBC News. “So it’s probably a healthy sign that they’re retooling a campaign slogan to showcase what they feel are their administration accomplishments.”

Editorial of the Day: Why the Country Needs a Fiscal Commission

In a piece published Monday, the Bloomberg editorial board applauds House Republicans for fixating on the nation’s fiscal challenges but warns that the demands by some in the GOP for discretionary spending cuts miss the mark: “Discretionary spending, which amounts to a little more than a quarter of the federal budget, isn’t the problem. It stands at 6.6% of GDP, down from 9.6% in 1973. Nondefense discretionary spending is slightly below the historical average.”

The real long-term problem, the editorial board says, lies in what’s called mandatory spending, mostly the promised outlays for Medicare and Social Security. And a fiscal commission “will almost certainly help” in addressing those imbalances. “Such an effort is all the more worthwhile this time, because the required changes don’t need to be excruciating. Reining in outlays for the wealthiest — for instance, by scaling back their cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security and gradually boosting Medicare premiums — would hardly hurt on an individual basis but would have a significant aggregate effect. By one estimate, those two measures alone could save more than $600 billion over a decade. Add in a modest tax increase over a sufficiently broad base and the problems are close to solved.”

Read the full editorial at Bloomberg.

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