By Andrea Shalal and Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden asked Congress to approve about $40 billion in additional spending on Thursday, including $24 billion for Ukraine and other international needs tied to the war with Russia, $4 billion related to border security and $12 billion for disaster relief.
A senior administration official said the needs were great, and the White House was hopeful an agreement could be reached with Congress on the request, which covers only the first quarter of the current 2024 fiscal year.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said there was strong bipartisan support in the Senate for doing more to support Ukraine, help Americans affected by natural disasters and “fight the scourge of fentanyl.”
“The latest request from the Biden administration shows America’s continued commitment to helping Americans here at home and our friends abroad; and should send a clear signal to Vladimir Putin, the Chinese government, and others of America’s resolve when it comes to defending democracy around the world,” Schumer said in a statement.
Asked about criticism from Republicans in the House of Representatives that the request violated a budget deal agreed in June, the official said it was clear when that deal was signed that it did not preclude requests for emergency funding.
‘There’s work to do, but we are hopeful about our ability to come together,” the official said.
Republicans narrowly control the House, where Speaker Kevin McCarthy signaled in June that any request for more assistance for Ukraine would face an uphill path through Congress.
The House and Senate last approved aid for the Kyiv government – $48 billion – in December, before Republicans took control of the House. Aides to McCarthy did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the budget request.
A second administration official said the United States was making good on its promise to stand by Ukraine in its fight against the Russian invasion that began in February 2022, and would not be bashful about asking for additional funds if needed.
The funding request also includes $3.3 billion to expand development and infrastructure lending by the World Bank to developing countries and provide a “credible alternative” to China’s “coercive and unsustainable lending and infrastructure projects,” Biden’s budget director Shalanda Young said in a letter to Congress.
The request includes $13.1 billion for the Department of Defense, including $9.5 billion for equipment for Ukraine and replenishment of U.S. equipment stocks to replace materiel already sent to Kyiv. It also includes $3.6 billion for continued military, intelligence and other defense support.
It seeks $8.5 billion for the Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development, including $7.3 billion for economic, humanitarian and security assistance for Ukraine and other affected countries and populations, $1 billion to strengthen strategic partnerships in developing countries and $200 million to strength African countries’ resistance to Russia’s Wagner Group, which Washington has designated a transnational criminal organization.
Wagner’s chief, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has welcomed a recent coup in Niger and said his forces were available to restore order.
Among other things, the package also asks for $2.65 billion for the Department of Homeland Security, including $2.2 billion for border management operations, shelter and services for migrants released from DHS custody, and $416 million for counter-fentanyl activities.