President Joe Biden on Monday urged Congress to quickly pass a multibillion-dollar aid package for Ukraine before trying to pass a new round of Covid-19 funding, warning that US aid for fighters in that country has all but dried up.
Biden’s new position marked a change from his insistence last month that military aid and pandemic funding to be pooled. Separating the two bills significantly increases the chances that Congress will approve the $33 billion in funding requested by Ukraine, while reducing hope for the $10 billion in COVID-19 relief funds that Biden said they are needed to supply vaccines and up-to-date vaccinations for the fall.
“Previously, I recommended that Congress take overdue action on much-needed funding for COVID treatments, vaccines and testing, as part of the Ukraine Supplemental Bill,” Biden said in a statement issued by the White House.
US President Joe Biden delivers a speech during an event in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington on May 9, 2022.
Kevin Lamarques | Reuters
“However, I have been informed by congressional leaders from both parties that such an addition would delay action on urgently needed Ukrainian aid, a view strongly expressed by several congressional Republicans,” Biden said.
“We cannot afford to delay this vital war effort,” he said. “Therefore, I am prepared to accept that these two measures move separately, so that the Ukraine aid bill can reach my desk immediately.”
Biden on April 28 had asked Congress will allocate $33 billion intended to cover humanitarian and military aid to Ukraine until September. Under Biden’s proposal, nearly two-thirds of that sum would go toward military and security assistance for Ukraine as it defends itself from invading Russian forces.
In his statement Monday, Biden said additional funding is needed and urgent, and money for shipments to Ukraine will run out within 10 days. “I have almost exhausted the resources that a bipartisan majority in Congress gave me to support the fighters in Ukraine,” he said.
“This aid has been critical to Ukraine’s success on the battlefield. We cannot allow our aid shipments to stop while we wait for further action from Congress,” Biden said.
His statement acknowledged that while there appears to be bipartisan support for the relief package, there is no such consensus for more Covid funding. Republicans had opposed efforts by Democrats to match money for Ukraine with additional funds for pandemic relief.
“So I am calling on Congress to pass Ukraine’s Supplemental Financing Bill immediately and bring it to my desk in the next few days. And then I urge Congress to act quickly on the COVID funding bill,” Biden said.
He stressed that more action is required from Congress to deal with the pandemic.
“Without timely COVID funding, more Americans will die unnecessarily,” he said. “In the fall, if new variants attack us, it will be too late to get the tools needed for protection: critical treatments that will be available in Europe, but not in the United States.”