The White House has asked Congress this Friday to approve an aid package of more than $105 billion, which will be used mainly for military aid to Ukraine and Israel, but also to bolster protection of the border with Mexico and other national security purposes.
The request, contained in a letter to acting House Speaker Patrick McHenry, came just hours after President Joe Biden announced in a televised address from the Oval Office that he would seek approval for billions of dollars to meet “America’s national security needs” and support “critical partners.”
“The world is watching, and the American people rightly expect their leaders to come together and deliver on these priorities,” said the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, Shalanda Young, in the letter to McHenry.
If Congress does approve this aid in the amounts requested by the Biden administration, a total of $61.4 billion would go to assist Ukraine, so that the Russian-invaded country can continue to battle to regain its occupied territory. Around $14.3 billion would go to Israel for its war against the radical Palestinian militia Hamas. Another $9.15 billion would be used for humanitarian assistance to Ukraine, Israel, the Gaza Strip and “other needs.”
Specifically, the funds for Ukraine will be used to purchase weapons and other defense equipment, provide assistance to Ukrainians displaced by the war, and pay for “critical services to its people and sustain its economy while under attack,” among other things, according to a fact sheet released by the White House.
The allocation for Israel will be dedicated to replenish ammunition and other defense material that the Pentagon has already been delivering to that country to enable it to protect itself. The material also includes support for Iron Dome missile defense systems.
More than 50 billion of the requested funds will be invested in the U.S. defense industry, which, according to the White House, will ensure that its armed forces have their needs covered. Without funds to compensate for the equipment it has been transferring to Ukraine and Israel, the “Department of Defense will be unable to continue to backfill the Military Services for equipment provided via drawdown to Ukraine and Israel, thereby degrading U.S. readiness.”
These funds will also be used to pay for security operations on the border with Mexico — including a budget for the deployment of 1,300 additional Border Patrol agents—, to combat fentanyl trafficking and to provide services to migrants. In addition, as explained by Young, they will provide resources “to ensure we can provide an alternative to coercive financing provided by the People’s Republic of China (PRC)” and “bolster security and stability in the Indo-Pacific.”
When announcing that he would request this allocation, Biden assured that it is “a smart investment that’s going to pay dividends for American security for generations, help us keep American troops out of harm’s way, help us build a world that is safer, more peaceful, and more prosperous for our children and grandchildren.”
“These conflicts may seem very distant, but the results of these fights for democracy against terrorism and tyranny are vital to the security of the American people,” said National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan in a telephone conversation with journalists.
But the president’s request may face major hurdles for approval. The House of Representatives, which must give its approval along with the Senate, has been without a speaker for more than two weeks, paralyzing its operations. The Republican Party, whose internal divisions forced the departure of the former speaker, Kevin McCarthy, is unable to agree on a replacement, and no progress is on the immediate horizon. This Thursday, conservative legislator Jim Jordan had his candidacy rejected again, in his third round of voting.
The idea behind submitting the budget requests for such different causes in a single bill seeks to increase their chances of passing in the Republican-controlled House. A previous funding request for Ukraine failed in September in the face of opposition from the radical right wing of the House Republican conference. That group of congressmen believes that too much of the budget has already been devoted to a war with no end in sight and that money should be spent on other priorities within the United States, including protecting the border from illegal immigration.
Support for military assistance for the invaded country is a majority in Congress, but since Republicans have a very small majority in the House, these legislators maintain a disproportionate influence in that institution.
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