The Senate Thursday approved more than $40 billion of additional humanitarian and military assistance for Ukraine as the last aid package was expected to run out this week.
The bill, which now heads to President Joe Biden for his signature, is triple the amount of aid the U.S. has already committed to the war-torn country trying to beat back Russia’s invasion. It passed 86-11 with most Republicans joining every Democrat in approving the bill.
The aid package will “meet the large needs of the Ukrainian people, as they fight for their survival,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said right before the vote. “It’s a fight we cannot turn away from. By passing this emergency aid, the Senate can now say to the Ukrainian people, “help is on the way’.”
The amount approved Thursday is $7 billion more than Biden initially requested. The package includes more than $20 billion for the Pentagon to provide weapons, intelligence and training, and nearly $14 billion for the State Department for food aid, refugee assistance and other diplomatic programs.
Along with the $13.6 billion passed in March, the combined $53.7 billion approved by Congress this year is about 81% of Russia’s 2021 defense budget. And it’s more than one-quarter the size of Ukraine’s pre-war economy.
In a rare show of bipartisanship, Schumer and GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., urged senators to approve the funding quickly as administration officials warned that the previous round of assistance would run dry this week.
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, in a joint letter, urged the Senate to “act quickly” as aid is expected to run out Thursday. Both cabinet officials promised Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during a trip to Kyiv last month that more assistance was forthcoming.
Passage of the bill was delayed several days because Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., objected, contending that the nation is already in too much debt to support more funding for Ukraine.
“Unless we put an end to the fiscal insanity, a day of reckoning awaits us,” Paul said Monday.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Patrick Leahy said Paul “caused needless delay” by holding up a bill that has broad bipartisan support.
In March, Congress approved $13.6 billion to Ukraine, including $6.5 billion to help restock Ukraine’s arsenal, place U.S. troops in the region and lend intelligence support.
Almost $6 billion went to humanitarian and economic support for the region.
Contributing: Maureen Groppe