Democratic and GOP in the US sources said that there are many issues that need to be sorted out over the country’s Ukraine package — including drafting the legislative language — and the whole process will take weeks until there are final votes in both chambers.
The likely goal at this point is to pass this package before the Memorial Day recess. But there are added complications to sort out — namely what to do with the stalled Covid-19 aid.
A senior Democratic House aide said US President Joe Biden’s supplemental request still has a long road ahead in both chambers, “There will be bicameral, bipartisan talks on the supplemental request. Language must also be drafted. It is also unresolved which Chamber will work to advance the supplemental first. This will not be an instant process.”
In a sign of the potential roadblocks ahead, many Republicans are already signaling they need more information about Biden’s supplemental before they could commit to voting on it in the Senate.
Republicans are still going through the President’s supplemental for Ukraine, but Sen. Jim Risch, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, said he has concerns about a provision in the package that authorizes International Monetary Fund (IMF) to spend roughly $20 billion. It’s not new money. This money has previously been appropriated, but it had not been authorized. It is an issue that Republicans and Democrats have been fighting about for months and Republicans say Biden slipped in this package.
It’s still early and Risch said many Republicans are still inclined to support the package, but he warned that Republicans want to take a few days to more carefully consider what is included.
“I have to go through the details,” Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida, said. “I don’t fixate as much on the amount. It’s more about what is it that you intend to provide to them? Is it what they need right now for the foreseeable future?”
Another divide emerging is Republicans view the high price tag for the humanitarian aid as potentially being misdirected. Sen. Steve Daines, a Republican from Montana who traveled to Ukraine during the recess, told reporters that he believes the better place to spend the money is on military assistance.
“The war crimes that are being committed as we speak won’t end until Ukraine wins this war. So while humanitarian aid is very important, the most important thing Ukrainians want is lethal aid to beat the Russians. I am not convinced the White House understands that,” Daines said.
“I want to know what we are investing in. I want to make sure between lethal aid and humanitarian aid, it is actually getting where it’s supposed to go. The devil is in the details,” Ernst said.
Sen. Roger Wicker, a Republican from Mississippi, said he’s comfortable with the package’s price tag.
“We need to send a strong signal that we intend for Ukraine to win this war against Vladimir Putin’s illegal war crimes,” Wicker said.
While members on both sides recognize there is an urgency to pass this legislation quickly, the mechanics of how this gets through the House and Senate are still very much in flux with some Democrats still insisting money should be wrapped into one package with Covid-19 money that has been held up over Biden’s immigration policy on Title 42.
“It needs to be done,” Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington, said.
Republicans, including whip John Thune, has already said adding Covid-19 funding to this bill is a nonstarter.