| 28 February 2024, Wednesday |

U.S. Congress edges toward Ukraine aid, government funding bill

The US Congress appeared to be on the verge of reaching an agreement on Tuesday to offer billions of dollars in humanitarian help to Ukraine, finance the federal government through September 30, and allocate resources to combat the COVID-19 outbreak.

The bill, which is still awaiting final approval from Democratic and Republican congressional leaders, was expected to provide $1.5 trillion in defense and nondefense discretionary spending, as well as up to $14 billion to assist Ukraine in responding to Russia’s invasion and around $15 billion for COVID.

“The agreement between Republicans and Democrats is very close to being finalized. I expect the text to be available in a few hours “At a mid-afternoon press conference, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Schumer’s Republican counterpart, said he expects $14 billion in humanitarian and military aid for Ukraine, including bank guarantees to help NATO members like Poland buy US jets to replace warplanes deployed to Ukraine.

“We need to give them loan guarantees and assurance that they’ll be able to backfill the loss of those MiGs for their own security,” McConnell told reporters.

There looked to be a squabble over the amount of help to Ukraine. It would cost less than $14 billion, according to Schumer. In any case, the estimates are higher than the White House’s request for $10 billion made last week.

The bill must be passed by midnight on Friday to avoid a government shutdown.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of the House of Representatives told reporters early Tuesday that his chamber plans to debate and adopt legislation funding the government through September 30 on Wednesday. However, he did not rule out the prospect of a short-term stopgap bill if full government financing legislation is not passed in time.

According to a person familiar with the negotiations, if Democrats fail to release the legislation on Tuesday, the challenge of adopting it by the Friday deadline would become more difficult, but not impossible.

After four measures this fiscal year that temporarily extended the previous year’s funding levels, Democrats intended to utilize strong public support for aiding Ukraine to pressure Republicans into adopting the vast “omnibus” package funding the government.

  • Reuters