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17 Nov, 2023 09:54

Biden signs funding bill that excludes Ukraine

The bipartisan legislation avoided “poison pills” and keeps the US government operational through early 2024
Biden signs funding bill that excludes Ukraine

US President Joe Biden signed a stopgap spending bill into law on Thursday, averting a looming government shutdown. The limited appropriation of funds, which omitted aid to Ukraine, passed the Senate on Wednesday.

The legislation was proposed by House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Republican, who relied on Democrats to push it through the chamber despite the objections of the more conservative wing of his party. The Democrat-controlled Senate passed the bill in a 87-11 vote the next day.

The stopgap bill did not include spending on hot-button issues, such as abortion, border security and foreign aid – for Ukraine, Israel or any other nation. Instead, it focused on keeping government departments operational at their current level. The two-tier plan provides funding through January 19 and February 2, depending on the agency. The shutdown deadline would have arrived at midnight on Friday.

“Because of bipartisan cooperation, we are keeping the government open without any poison pills or harmful cuts to vital programs – a great outcome for the American people,” Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said after he and his fellow senators voted on the bill.

The Ukraine aid issue contributed to US political turmoil in September, which resulted in the unprecedented ouster of Johnson’s predecessor, Kevin McCarthy. Opponents of Biden’s Ukraine policy accused the then-speaker of striking a secret deal with the White House to ensure that Kiev would eventually get the money.

Some Republicans want a revision of Ukraine assistance, arguing that it lacks transparency and that other US priorities are more important than propping up the Ukrainian government.

Johnson previously drew the anger of the White House when he refused Biden’s request to bundle Ukraine aid with assistance to Israel and Taiwan and domestic security and emergency relief spending. Senior US officials have warned that without American help, Kiev may soon lose in the conflict with Moscow.

The new speaker framed the bill as the last one he would agree to and a prelude to a major clash with the Senate over the US budget for 2024.

Republican critics of the bill said Johnson made a mistake by allying with the Democrats, but agreed to cut him some slack during his “honeymoon” period in the post. The lawmaker was elected speaker three weeks ago, after a tense impasse, as GOP representatives could not agree on a replacement for McCarthy.

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