Joe Biden admitted to removing COVID relief from the package, stating on Monday that he was told it would delay action on the urgently needed Ukrainian aid, confirming that now COVID funds are being diverted to rush the $40 billion towards the Ukraine war.
After agreeing to reject a request for further COVID-19 related funding that they intended to merge, Congressional Democrats are pushing to rustle up $39.8 billion in additional Ukraine aid.
According to Reuters, the package, which exceeds President Joe Biden’s $33 billion proposal from April, could be voted on by the House as soon as Tuesday, with Senate Democrats signaling that they are ready to act quickly.
Although bipartisan backing for emergency help to Ukraine has prevailed for weeks, disagreements about domestic funding for pandemic relief and whether or not stricter immigration controls should be included have slowed the procedure.
“We cannot allow our shipments of assistance to stop while we await further congressional action,” President Biden said in a statement, urging Congress to speed up the financing so he could approve within the next few days.
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The concern arises after Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin pleaded for the funding in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and senior House Republican Kevin McCarthy, claiming that they will run out in two weeks.
“We need your help,” Austin and Blinken wrote, claiming that there was “only” $100 million left over from a presidential weapons authorisation (which required no congressional approval).
The letter says, “We expect to exhaust that authority no later than May 19, 2022,”
Senator Dick Durban, the second-ranking Democrat, was not pleased with the decision.
“It would have been so much better for us to protect the United States as well as worked to protect Ukraine,” Durban added, adding that dividing Ukraine funding from COVID-19 aid “doesn’t help. Putting those two together would have been a positive.”
Biden admitted to removing COVID relief from the package, stating on Monday that he was told it would delay action “on the urgently needed Ukrainian aid.”