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20 Nov, 2023 09:03

Time running short for US military aid to Ukraine – NBC

A bill bundling the spending with assistance to Israel and border security must pass this year, or not at all, sources on Capitol Hill have indicated
Time running short for US military aid to Ukraine – NBC

The chances of the US Congress approving significant aid for Ukraine alongside funding for other causes will be drastically reduced if a bill is not passed by the end of the year, NBC News reported on Sunday, citing sources on Capitol Hill. A clash on supplemental spending is expected after the Thanksgiving recess.

Last week, US lawmakers in both chambers approved a bipartisan stopgap spending bill to allow the government to operate through early 2024. The legislation deliberately avoided any political hot-button issues in order to secure votes from both Democrats and the GOP. Nevertheless, the more conservative wing of the House Republicans opposed it for not including budget cuts.

The upcoming debate will be over a proposal to bundle together aid for Ukraine, Israel, America’s Asia-Pacific allies, humanitarian aid for Palestinian civilians, as well as funding for securing the US southern border. Originating as a $105 billion package floated by the White House last month, the idea is to get Republicans behind sending more money to Kiev by offering them a concession on immigration control.

The Republican-controlled House has already passed a bill for Israel aid as a standalone initiative, but the legislation is widely considered dead on arrival in the Democrat-held Senate, because it includes provisions which cut Internal Revenue Service (IRS) funding, a no-go for the party.

The short window between Thanksgiving and Christmas will be crucial for negotiating a supplementary spending bill, four Senate sources directly involved in the process told NBC News. If the House goes against it and stalls until after the New Year, the chance that it will make it over the finish line “reduces dramatically,” the outlet said.

Mike Johnson, the new House speaker, indicated earlier this month that he supported tying Ukraine to border security, but not to Israel. His ally, Republican Sen. Rick Scott, has suggested that the politician preempt the Senate with his own bill, in which benchmarks would be attached to Ukraine spending. That would make it “awfully difficult for senators to vote against it,” he said.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries told reporters last week that “nothing that will happen in the House of Representatives in a partisan fashion … has any shot of becoming law.”

Johnson’s predecessor, Kevin McCarthy, was ousted by his own party in September, after opponents of continued Ukraine assistance accused him of striking a secret deal with the White House to ensure that the flow of funds would ultimately not be interrupted.

Critics say aid to Kiev lacks transparency and should not be a priority for the American people. Ukraine, a nation which Transparency International ranks alongside Zambia and Angola in terms of corruption, has been rocked by several scandals recently. They include the Defense Ministry’s purchase of overpriced supplies for the troops.