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Senate leaders urge quick ok on fresh $40 billion for Ukraine

WASHINGTON — Leaders of both parties tried to clear the way for the Senate to pass an additional $40 billion for Ukraine and its allies on Thursday, a package of military and economic aid that underscores US determination to play its part in fighting the Russian invasion to strengthen.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called on “both sides” — that is, Republicans and Democrats — to “help us pass this urgent funding bill today.” His explicit involvement of his own GOP peers came as the only apparent stumbling blocks to quick approval seemed to be Republican demands for votes on proposals, including an inspector general’s review of the new spending.

Passage through a strong bipartisan margin soon seemed certain. If the bill is not amended, that vote would mean Congress’ final approval of a measure Democrats and most Republicans want President Joe Biden to see to allow arms and supplies to continue flowing to outnumbered Ukrainians.

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“Republicans shouldn’t block this bill,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told DN.Y. “There is no reason, absolutely no reason, not to have Ukraine’s funding approved quickly.”

It was unclear how the GOP lawmakers’ desire for votes would be met, but such issues are often resolved at the last moment. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who is pushing for the inspector general role, told reporters, “I’m not allowing the bill to pass quickly without the bill being fiscally accountable.”

The House of Representatives voted 368 to 57 on Tuesday to approve the measure. All Democrats and most Republicans supported him, although every “no” came from the GOP.

Bipartisan support for Ukraine was fueled in part by reports of Russian atrocities against Ukrainian civilians that were impossible to ignore. It also reflects strategic concerns that Russian President Vladimir Putin could usurp European territory unanswered as his attack on his western neighbor enters its 12th week.

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“Helping Ukraine is not an example of mere philanthropy,” McConnell said. “It directly affects national security and America’s vital interests that Russia’s naked aggression does not succeed, and comes at a significant cost.”

Biden administration officials have said they expect the latest relief effort to last through September. But with Ukraine suffering heavy military and civilian casualties and no indication of when fighting might end, Congress will ultimately face decisions on how much more aid to provide at a time of huge US budget deficits and recession risk , which might require additional home expenses.

The latest legislation, if added to the $13.6 billion approved by Congress in March, would bring American aid to the region to well over $50 billion. That would be a total of $6 billion more than what the US spent on military and economic aid worldwide in 2019, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.

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The push for passage came as Russia continued to blow up Ukrainian forces and towns in southern and eastern parts of the country. In light of the international concern sparked by the attack, Finnish leaders announced their support for NATO entry, and Sweden did not appear to be far behind.

Biden asked Congress for $33 billion two weeks ago. It wasn’t long before lawmakers added $3.4 billion to its requests for military and humanitarian programs.

The measure includes $6 billion for Ukraine to provide intelligence, equipment and training for its armed forces, and $4 billion to help Kyiv and NATO allies build their armed forces.

There’s $8.7 billion for the Pentagon to rebuild stockpiles of weapons it shipped to Ukraine and $3.9 billion for US troops in the region.

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The measure also includes $8.8 billion to keep the government in Kyiv functioning, more than $5 billion to help feed countries around the world that depend on Ukrainian crops damaged by the Fighting has been destroyed, and $900 million to teach English and support Ukrainian refugees who have moved to the United States.

The biggest hurdle to speedy approval of the aid was cleared this week when Biden and Democrats dropped their call for billions more to be included in the measure to bolster U.S. efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Republicans want separate COVID-19 legislation to be a battleground for an election-season immigration battle that is dividing Democrats.

The aid bill lacks Biden’s proposals to help Afghan refugees stay permanently in the US and $500 million to pay US farmers to plant more crops to offset Ukraine’s limited food production. Biden’s pleas to help Russian scientists emigrate to the US and to have the Justice Department transfer funds to Ukraine that the US acquired by seizing the Russian oligarch’s assets have also disappeared.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2022/05/12/senate-leaders-push-for-quick-ok-for-fresh-40b-for-ukraine/ Senate leaders urge quick ok on fresh $40 billion for Ukraine

Justin Scacco

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