Biden Administration Asks for $10 Billion in Aid for Ukraine, $22.5 Billion for Pandemic Response

by Chris Haney

As Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine, the Biden administration is asking Congress to approve $10 billion in aid for the besieged country, and another $22.5 billion to help manage the COVID-19 pandemic. The aid would help Ukraine defend against its attackers and help address the growing humanitarian crisis in the country. The pandemic funds would go towards public health programs and to help protect against future variants. The administration wants to include the additional funds in a fiscal 2022 spending bill that lawmakers hope to pass next week.

What You Need To Know

  • The Biden administration is looking to add $10 billion in aid for Ukraine and Eastern European partners.
  • The president also wants to add $22.5 billion to the spending bill to help with the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Lawmakers are still haggling over the additional funds, but hope to pass the spending bill next week.
  • If the bill doesn’t pass by the March 11 deadline, it could complicate sending aid to Ukraine as the U.S. government faces a temporary shutdown.

Biden Administration Hopes Ukraine Aid Will Help Repel Russian Invasion

According to reports, the Biden administration is looking to aid Ukrainians however they can without sending U.S. troops to war. The president is hopeful that lawmakers will approve $10 billion in aid that would help Ukraine repel Russian forces.

Ukraine would use the funds to train their military and reinforce defenses, according to a Washington Post report from Thursday. Additionally, the money would help protect Ukraine’s electrical grid. It would also fortify the country’s cyber defenses and help enforce sanctions on Moscow. Further, the funds would give much needed financial support to the growing humanitarian crisis as the war presses on.

Previously, the White House asked for $6.4 billion in Ukraine aid. Appropriators anticipated that the aid amount would likely increase as the Biden administration sends supplies and troops overseas. The Pentagon recently ordered around 12,000 military members from various U.S. bases to Europe.

For now, the military is not engaging in the Ukraine conflict directly. Instead, the soldiers will train alongside military units of NATO allies while stationed in Europe. The move is a display of force that will hopefully reduce further aggression by Russia in Ukraine.

Negotiations for Ukraine Aid Hit a ‘Snag’ in Congress

Earlier this week though, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said negotiations over the bill hit a “snag.” McConnell and other Republicans have claimed that Democrats want to categorize the humanitarian aid to Ukraine as non-defense spending. Yet Democrats want to subtract any military assistance from the Pentagon’s annual budget for the year.

Meanwhile, the White House insists that they’re categorizing any funds for Ukraine as new emergency aid. The Washington Post report noted that the White House did not intend to file the aid as repurposed funds meant for the Defense Department. The outlet also shared a segment of acting director of the Office of Management and Budget Shalanda Young’s letter to lawmakers.

“Given the rapidly evolving situation in Ukraine, additional needs may arise over time,” Young wrote. “Likewise, I anticipate that additional funding will be needed to support the Covid-19 response.”

White House Requests Billions In Further Aid for Covid-19 Response

In addition to Ukraine aid, the Biden administration asked for $22.5 billion to help manage the evolving Covid-19 pandemic. The money would help replenish funding for public health programs as they protect against a spike in cases and future variants.

Democratic and Republican lawmakers continue to haggle over the spending package that includes the proposed funding requests. The aid packages would be linked to the overall fiscal 2022 spending bill that lawmakers are looking to pass next week.

With some testing and vaccination programs expiring this spring, the Covid-19 funds could help extend their usage. Yet some GOP lawmakers have questioned using more funds for the Covid-19 response at this time. Many are questioning if the additional spending is necessary following the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan spending package that Biden administration passed in March 2021. 

The White House argued that the they have enough funding to address the effects of the waning Omicron surge. However, officials are concerned about future variants if they arise. They say additional funding is needed for testing, therapeutics, and the production of potential vaccines.

As of now, the government has a deadline of next Friday, March 11 to avoid a temporary shutdown. Without the 2022 spending bill in place, the Biden administration’s ability to aid the foreign policy and public health crises would be severely impacted. If Republicans and Democrats can’t come to an agreement soon, it could complicate sending aid to Ukraine in a timely fashion as the United Nations expects the invasion of Ukraine to create millions of refugees in Europe.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer spoke about the ongoing spending bill discussions. He pleaded with lawmakers to unite over sending aid to Ukraine. Schumer also warned that “nothing would make [Russian President Vladimir] Putin happier than having Democrats and Republicans divided.”