The Senate passed President Biden’s $40 billion military and humanitarian aid package on Thursday after a series of partisan fights delayed its consideration for a week.
In an 86 to 11 vote, the Senate approved the package sending it to President Biden’s desk, where it is expected to be signed later this week. Overall, more than 30 Republicans joined with all 50 Senate Democrats to back the measure, while 11 GOP lawmakers voted against it.
“Today the United States Senate will keep its promise to stand with the people of Ukraine,” said Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat. “This is a large package, and it will meet the large needs of the Ukrainian people as they fight for their survival.”
Its passage comes just as the Pentagon has publicly warned it could exhaust its ability to deliver weapons and aid to Ukraine as early as this week. The package is $7 billion more than what was originally requested by the White House. Lawmakers opted to beef up the military and humanitarian aid being offered to Ukraine.
Specifically, the package earmarks $11 billion for the Defense Department to send weapons from its stockpile directly to Ukraine. Lawmakers said the move would streamline the flow of weapons to the besieged nation as it works to stave off a Russian invasion.
“Help is on the way in the form of javelins and stingers and howitzers and other critical tools for victory on the battlefield,” Mr. Schumer said.
At least $9 billion of the overall package will go to backfill weapons and resources the White House has already sent to Ukraine. Another $6 billion is slated to shore up the Pentagon’s main fund for arming Ukraine.
Nearly $4 billion will be used to deploy troops and equipment to bordering NATO nations in case Russia opts to expand the war. The bill also includes $67 million for the Justice Department to seize and sell the US assets of Russian oligarchs sanctioned for their ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Overall, the legislation’s passage hikes the overall cost to US taxpayers of the commitment to Ukraine to $54 billion. That sum includes the $13.6 billion in aid that Congress authorized in March shortly after Russia invaded.
Republicans say the figure, which amounts to nearly 5% of the US overall national security budget and is $6 billion more than the total spent on foreign and military aid in 2019, is too high.
“We cannot save Ukraine by dooming the US economy,” said Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican. “Isn’t there a more fiscally responsible way this could be done?”
Opponents, like Mr. Paul, highlighted the total cost of the bill and what they saw as insufficient accountability measures in pushing for its delay. Mr. Paul used an arsenal of legislative procedures to block speedy consideration of the package unless it included language creating a special inspector general to oversee how the money was being spent.
That effort was blocked by Senate Democrats, however. Mr. Schumer refused to compromise, arguing that since the bill had already passed the House it would have to go back to that chamber if any amendments were allowed.
“This should already have been done and over with, but it is repugnant that one member of the other side, the junior senator from Kentucky, chose to make a show and obstruct Ukraine funding,” Mr. Schumer said.
With Mr. Paul refusing to acquiesce and Mr. Schumer unwilling to compromise, lawmakers were forced to delay the passage by a week.