US Congress gives final approval to $13.6bn Ukraine aid bill

Measure supported by Biden will provide $6.5bn to the Pentagon for military assistance, $6.7bn to care for refugees.

US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks to reporters at the US Capitol in Washington, DC [Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters]

The United States Senate gave final approval to a $13.6bn emergency military and humanitarian aid package for Ukraine and its European allies late on Thursday, sending the bill to President Joe Biden who has said he will sign the measure.

“We’re giving the Ukrainians billions for food, medicine, shelter, and support for the over two million refugees who have had to leave Ukraine,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, adding the funding would provide for “weapons transfers” of Javelin anti-tank missiles and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles.

The Ukraine aid was attached to an omnibus $1.5 trillion annual spending bill that passed the House of Representatives on Wednesday and was approved by the Senate amid rising anger among US legislators at Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that has forced more than 2.5 million people to flee their homes and killed thousands.

President Biden reaffirmed on Thursday the US and NATO allies were sending more weapons and aid to Ukraine.

“We will make sure Ukraine has weapons to defend against an invading Russian force. We will send money and food and aid to save the Ukrainian people,” Biden said in remarks at the White House.

The US has sent more than $1bn in security assistance and military aid to Ukraine during the past year including anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons, “with new shipments arriving every day”, Biden said.

Vice President Kamala Harris visiting Poland on Thursday announced $53m in US humanitarian support to Ukraine bringing to $107m in humanitarian aid provided in the past two weeks along with hundreds of millions in additional aid from 30 other countries, the US president said.

Tens of thousands of tonnes of humanitarian supplies, food, water and medicines are being shipped into Ukraine by truck and rail on daily basis, he said.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., left, greets Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, right, shake hands at the start of a hearing on worldwide threats as Russia continues to attack Ukraine.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner, left, greets Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lieutenant General Scott Berrier, right, at the start of a public hearing on Russia’s attack on Ukraine [J Scott Applewhite/AP Photo]

Biden and other NATO leaders are under increasing pressure to help Ukraine as images of death and destruction wrought by Russian forces reach Western nations.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that the $13.6bn allocates roughly $6.5bn to the Pentagon for military assistance and about $6.7bn to care for refugees and provide economic aid to eastern European allies.

She said the bill is likely to be just the start of much broader aid for Ukraine’s war effort, which other US officials have said could take years or decades.

A group of 40 Republican US senators, meanwhile, are imploring the Biden administration in a letter to reverse course and allow the transfer of Poland’s MiG fighter jets to the Ukrainians to fight the Russian invasion.

“Enough talk. People are dying,” Senator Mitt Romney said at a Capitol Hill media conference on Thursday. “Send them the planes they need.”

Republican Senator Joni Ernst wears a pin pairing the American red white and blue flag with the Ukrainian blue and yellow to showoff the embattled Eastern European nation.
Republican Senator Joni Ernst wears a pin pairing the American red white and blue flag with the Ukrainian blue and yellow to show support for the embattled Eastern European nation [Alex Brandon/AP Photo]

General Mark Milley, chairman of the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, was reaching out to members of Congress to discuss the Polish MiG issue with lawmakers, senators said.

Poland took the US by surprise on Tuesday with its public offer to exchange its Russian-made MiG fighter jets in for new US-made F-16 fighters. It intended to turn them over to the US at an American airbase, allowing the MiGs to be re-flagged in Germany and transferred to Ukraine, but the US and NATO rejected the proposal as likely to lead to an expansion of the war.

Republican Senator Susan Collins said it was hard to see the destruction – especially the Russian air raid on a maternity hospital – and be opposed to providing the Ukrainians “with these essential aircraft”.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had implored US lawmakers during the weekend to supply the Polish MiGs to help his people to defend against the attack from Russia.

Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican, said in a pair of tweets the failure to send MiGs to Ukraine was “a major misstep”.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies