UPDATE: President Biden signed the bill late Friday.
The Senate on Thursday approved a stopgap funding bill needed to avert a government shutdown that includes up to $16 billion in new aid for Ukraine.
The legislation passed the Senate in a vote of 72-25 and is expected to be passed quickly by the House so it can reach President Biden’s desk by Friday night.
One provision in the bill is for a $12.3 billion aid package for Ukraine. It includes $4.5 billion in direct budgetary aid for the Ukrainian government, $2.8 billion for the Pentagon to pay for troops deployments in Eastern Europe, $1.5 billion to replenish US stockpiles sent to Ukraine, and $3 billion for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI). The USAI allows the US government to purchase weapons for Ukraine.
The stopgap funding bill includes a separate authorization for $3.7 billion in presidential drawdown authority, which allows President Biden to ship Ukraine weapons directly from US military stockpiles. So far, the US has given Kyiv over $12 billion in arms using this authority since Russia invaded.
Defense News reported that Republicans were pressing Biden to use $2.1 billion in presidential drawdown that was leftover from the $40 billion Ukraine aid bill that was signed into law back in May. That aid expires on September 30th, and Republican leadership in Congress is not happy that Biden didn’t use the $2.1 billion.
But the Biden administration said that the $2.1 billion was factored into its request for the $3.7 billion in presidential drawdown authority. Meaning, the White House asked for $1.6 billion in new presidential drawdown authority, and the leftover $2.1 billion was added to that amount.
Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) and other Republicans still weren’t happy and thought $5.8 billion should have been approved for presidential drawdown authority. On the Senate floor on Thursday night, Sen. Mitch McConnel (R-KY) called for the US to provide Ukraine with “more tanks, fighting vehicles, longer-range rockets, artillery, and air defense systems, more HIMARS, more drones, and preparatory training in western fighter aircraft.”
The 12.3 billion aid package and the new presidential drawdown authority will bring the total authorized for the US to spend on the war in Ukraine to $67.5 billion. To put the figure in perspective, Russia’s entire annual military budget for 2021 was $65.9 billion.