Biden plots stopgap funding for Ukraine aid – media
US President Joe Biden’s administration has reportedly set its sights on a State Department grant program to keep weapons and financial aid flowing to Ukraine, while waiting for divided Republican lawmakers to approve more spending to help Kiev fight Russian forces.
One of the stopgap-funding sources under consideration is a fund that provides grants or loans to US allies to buy weapons, Politico reported on Thursday, citing two unidentified government officials with knowledge of Biden’s plans. The president acknowledged on Wednesday that he was worried about a possible disruption to Ukraine aid amid congressional chaos, but he suggested that he might find another way to keep the funding going, at least temporarily, without getting a new spending bill passed.
Washington’s continued support for Ukraine was thrown into doubt last week, when Republicans stripped Biden’s $24 billion aid request out of a spending bill that averted a government shutdown for 45 days. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-California) was voted out of his leadership position on Tuesday, the first such ouster in US history, reportedly after conservative Republicans heard that he had promised Biden a separate Ukraine funding bill.
The State Department, the Pentagon and Biden himself have warned this week that any disruption to aid could have devastating consequences for Ukraine on the battlefield. Republicans have become increasingly critical of Biden’s Ukraine strategy as public support for funding the bloody conflict wanes. Congress has already approved four rounds of Ukraine funding, totaling about $113 billion.
Biden administration officials have privately admitted that only weeks remain before a potential lapse in US funding to Kiev. The State Department grant program had about $650 million remaining as of September 21. Lawmakers originally allotted $4.6 billion for the program, which was designed to provide military grants and financing to Ukraine and other allies affected by the conflict with Russia.
However, even if the administration uses the financing authority to purchase weapons, it will still need approval from Congress to authorize additional funding for Ukraine, a US official told Politico. A Pentagon official said the White House also would need approval from lawmakers to redirect other defense spending to Kiev.
The Pentagon warned last week that it had exhausted “nearly all available security-assistance funding for Ukraine.” About $1.6 billion in funding remains to replace US weapons that were sent to the Ukrainians.