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27 Sep, 2023 03:37

US lawmakers propose major cut to Ukraine aid

Democrats and Republicans were forced to compromise ahead of a looming government shutdown
US lawmakers propose major cut to Ukraine aid

The US Senate has reached a provisional deal on a spending bill needed to avert a federal budget crisis, with lawmakers agreeing to slash nearly $20 billion in proposed aid for Ukraine following push-back by some Republicans.

The upper chamber ended debate on the budget legislation on Tuesday night, garnering the support needed to advance to a final vote, officials from both parties said.

“All through the weekend – night and day – Senate Democrats and Republicans worked in good faith to reach an agreement on a continuing resolution that will keep the government funded and avert a shutdown,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, said in a statement.

The stop-gap bill will reportedly allocate $6.2 billion for assistance to Ukraine, a significant drop from the nearly $25 billion originally sought by Democrats. While a large number of Republicans appear to have accepted the more modest aid package, some GOP members have vowed to oppose any measure that includes funding for Kiev.

“It’s bad policy to bankrupt our own country to send money to Ukraine,” libertarian-leaning Senator Rand Paul said in a post on X (formerly Twitter). “I will not consent to easy passage of any spending bill that includes funding for Ukraine. Those in charge of this bill need to either take it out or will have to fight me every step of the way.”

In another missive, Paul mocked leaders in both parties, sharing a photo of Schumer and his GOP counterpart Mitch McConnell with the caption: “The look on their faces when they learned Ukrainian government workers would be paid during a shutdown, but not American government workers. Priceless? No, pathetic.”

However, while the Senate appears close to an agreement on the budget measure despite Paul’s opposition, the bill must be reconciled with a separate version advancing through the House. Lawmakers in both chambers have until September 30 to produce final legislation for President Joe Biden to sign, risking a shutdown otherwise.

It remains to be seen whether House Speaker Kevin McCarthy will accept the Senate’s alterations to the spending bill, given that congressional Republicans are seeking deeper budget cuts and have opposed aid to Ukraine more vocally. Earlier on Tuesday, the House leader said he would not speak in “hypotheticals” regarding the Senate bill, but suggested his party would look to boost border funding in their own version.

Though senior White House officials previously warned that a federal shutdown would hamper US military aid to Kiev, the Pentagon itself has appeared to contradict those claims.