Biden Says GOP ‘Making a Big Mistake’ on Ukraine Aid

Biden Says GOP ‘Making a Big Mistake’ on Ukraine Aid

Samuel Corum via Reuters
By Yuval Rosenberg and Michael Rainey
Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Happy Tuesday. Congress is out of town this week, but that hasn’t stopped leaders from sniping at each other as the clock ticks on Ukraine aid and government funding. Here’s your update.

Biden Says GOP ‘Making a Big Mistake’ on Ukraine Aid

Congress is out this week, but the battle over billions in aid to Ukraine and Israel has continued. President Joe Biden on Monday was asked by reporters if he would meet with Speaker Mike Johnson to negotiate the aid deal, which Johnson and House Republicans have so far rejected.

“Sure, I’d be happy to meet with him if he has anything to say,” Biden responded.

The White House last week rejected a request from Johnson for a one-on-one meeting, arguing that the speaker has been killing bipartisan aid bills, leaving little reason for a tête-à-tête.

Biden on Monday also expressed some exasperation with House Republicans, saying that they are “making a big mistake” by blocking the aid package and not responding to Russian aggression.

“Look, the way they’re walking away from the threat of Russia, the way they’re walking away from NATO, the way they’re walking away from meeting our obligations, it’s just shocking,” Biden said. “I mean, they’re wild. I’ve never seen anything like this.”

The Senate earlier this month passed a $95.3 billion aid package that included more than $60 billion to support Ukraine in its fight against Russia. The bill was backed by 70 senators, including 22 Republicans, yet Johnson has refused to allow it to come to a vote in the House and has instead demanded to meet with the president.

A spokesperson for Johnson welcomed Biden’s comment. “It’s long overdue,” Raj Shah, Johnson’s deputy chief for communications, posted on X, formerly Twitter. “We look forward to hearing from the WH when he’ll be available for a 1-on-1 meeting that the Speaker has requested for weeks.”

Biden was also asked Monday whether the death of Alexei Navalny, Russian President Vladimir Putin's most prominent critic, might spur House Republicans to move on aid to Ukraine.

“I hope so,” Biden said. “But I’m not sure anything is going to change.”

The bottom line: Biden is in California for a few days and the House isn’t back until February 28. Congress also has to fund the government beyond upcoming March 1 and March 8 deadlines. A $66 billion bipartisan House foreign aid package proposed last week could ultimately form the basis for a new compromise — or not — but there likely won’t be any movement on assistance to Ukraine just yet.

Quote of the Day

“The urgency of the moment, the epic dysfunction of the House of Representatives has drawn attention to the question of — can they legislate in the most basic of ways?”

— Sen. Chris Coons, a Democrat from Delaware, speaking to Punchbowl News at the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany. European officials have reportedly pressed American lawmakers attending the conference to act quickly to provide aid for Ukraine, which faces serious shortages of equipment, but, as mentioned above, House Speaker Mike Johnson remains noncommittal on the issue.

Democrats have spoken about trying to get the Senate’s $95 billion bill on the floor through a parliamentary maneuver called a discharge petition, but that remains a long shot. “Despite all the headlines, we do not see a path for a ‘discharge petition’ in the House to pass the Senate-passed measure,” Chris Kreuger of Cowen Research Group wrote Tuesday. “Sure, if this season was written by Aaron Sorkin, the spring series would probably end with a discharge petition but there is a reason they have only been successful twice in 20+ years (campaign finance reform & Export-Import Bank).”

Chart of the Day

While the supplemental spending package that would provide additional military aid to Ukraine and other U.S. allies remains hung up in Congress, some of the bill’s supporters are highlighting the benefits for the domestic economy associated with increased defense spending – benefits that show clearly in the economic data.

“In the two years since Russia invaded Ukraine, the U.S. defense industry has experienced a boom in orders for weapons and munitions,” writes The Wall Street Journal’s Tom Fairless. “Business is coming from European allies trying to build out their military capabilities as well as from the Pentagon, which is both buying new equipment from defense manufacturers and replenishing military stocks depleted by deliveries to Ukraine.”

That burst of activity translates to a 17.5% increase in production in the U.S. defense and space sector in the two years since Russia invaded Ukraine. The Biden administration say that 64% of the funding included in the Senate’s $95 billion supplemental bill would end up flowing through that sector.


Biden Administration Announces Billions in Spending for Clean Water, Chip Manufacturing

The White House on Tuesday announced plans to spend $5.8 billion on clean water infrastructure around the country. The funds come from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law of 2021, which provided upwards of $50 billion for water-related projects. With Tuesday’s announcement, the Environmental Protection Agency has now declared how it will use $22 billion of that funding.

Projects receiving federal funds are located in every state, the White House said, and will focus on things like replacing lead water pipes, upgrading water treatment plants and removing known contaminants from water supplies. The EPA has launched a new map that tracks the projects: Investing in America’s Water Infrastructure Storymap.

Separately, the Biden administration announced Monday that is awarding a $1.5 billion grant to chipmaker GlobalFoundries as part of an effort to boost high-tech manufacturing in the U.S. An additional $1.6 billion in loans will be made available to the company, and the funds are expected to enable GlobalFoundries to triple its manufacturing capacity in New York state, among other things.

Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, whose state will benefit significantly from the money, said the federal funding will anchor a $12 billion investment by GlobalFoundries in the U.S., bringing 9,000 construction jobs and 1,500 permanent factory jobs. “The bang for the buck that the federal government is investing is huge,” Schumer said, per The New York Times. “This shows our best days are not over. We can compete.”

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