The White House is asking Congress to open its checkbook again, requesting $40 billion to aid the war in Ukraine, beef up border security and fund federal assistance for natural disasters.
The new supplemental funding request, unveiled Thursday, includes $24 billion in security, economic and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, $4 billion for border security and migration and $12 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency as extreme weather continues to plague much of the U.S. It also includes a request for $60 million to support pay raises for wildland firefighters.
The White House said previous aid packages for Ukraine "have been committed or nearly committed."
The request includes funding for not only Ukraine’s defense, but also to leverage greater financing for developing countries impacted by Russia's invasion and $200 million to strengthen countries in Africa against Wagner, a mercenary group that has fought against Ukraine and in African countries. "As the impacts of Russia’s war reverberate around the globe, the United States is committed to maintaining strong global opposition to Russia’s illegal war. At the same time, it is essential that we offer a credible alternative to the PRC's coercive and unsustainable lending and infrastructure projects for developing countries around the world," the letter from Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy states.
More than a year after the war in Ukraine began, some polls show Americans are becoming more hesitant to send additional aid to the country.
Though most surveys show Americans' support for Ukraine remains high, Americans are growing less supportive of sending more money to Kiev. A recent CNN poll found 55% of Americans said Congress should not authorize more funding for Ukraine.
Speaking to reporters on a phone call on Wednesday, White House National Security Spokesman John Kirby said continued aid for Ukraine is important for national security.
"I think it’s important to remember that if we just sit back and we let Putin win, we let him take Ukraine, where does it stop next?" He said.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, a key proponent of Ukraine aid on Capitol Hill, was quick to praise the additional proposed aid Thursday, saying in a statement the Administration's request "should send a clear signal to Vladimir Putin."
Reached for comment, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, another key proponent of Ukraine aid, declined to outright endorse the supplemental, telling Scripps News he planned to "carefully [review] the Administration's request to make sure it is necessary and appropriate to keep America safe, secure our borders, support our allies, and help communities rebuild after disasters."
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said, "A Republican-led House will not rubber-stamp any blank-check funding requests; rather, the Administration’s emergency funding requests must be reviewed and scrutinized on their merits consistent with the practice and principles of our majority."
The Biden administration has been adamant it would continue support for Ukraine for as long as it’s needed. The United States has committed more than $43 billion to Ukraine since the invasion started, according to the Department of Defense. It has also led a coalition of dozens of countries coordinating military support.
"The fact of the matter is that I believe we'll have the funding necessary to support Ukraine as long as it takes. And I believe that we’re going to, that that support will be real, even though there are, you hear some voices today on Capitol Hill about whether or not we should continue to support Ukraine and for how long we should support them," President Biden said in June.
FEMA's Disaster Relief Fund is expected to run out of money by the end of the month, according to the agency's most recent monthly report.
President Biden tasked the agency Thursday with responding to the wildfires that struck Hawaii this week.
Catastrophic weather and climate events caused more than $170 billion in damages last year alone, according to data from NOAA.
"Due to ongoing recovery needs in every state [FEMA] projects a significant deficit in the Disaster Relief Fund," the letter states.
The White House's funding request comes as lawmakers are currently on August recess. Congress is not expected to fully return to Washington until mid-September.
Sen. Susan Collins, the Vice Chair of the Senate Appropriations committee, told Scripps News she wanted "to see a supplemental as soon as possible" just one day before the August Recess began.
"It is absurd. It is clearly needed. I mean, when you look at the horrendous flooding in states as diverse as Kentucky, in Vermont, it is evident that the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) will need to be replenished," Collins told Scripps News.
"We have heard nothing,” echoed Sen. Katie Britt, the lead Republican on the Senate's Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, which approves funding for FEMA, last month, before leaving for August recess.
Lawmakers knew back in January that the agency would soon need additional funding for disasters. At the time, the estimate was around $11.7 billion.
In April, testifying before the House Appropriations committee, FEMA Administrator Criswell told members of Congress the projected shortfall would come in July, as localities were finalizing their COVID-19 disaster bills and submitting them to the federal government for reimbursement, ahead of the pandemic emergency response expiring in May.
Supplemental requests for disaster relief have become routine. Between 1992 and 2021, nearly three-quarters of the Disaster Relief Fund budget was provided through supplemental appropriations, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Hurricane recovery made up the bulk of the need.
The request also includes support for resources at the border following the implementation of Biden's border plan with the end of Title 42. It includes more than $2 billion for border management, shelter and services for migrants and $416 million to help combat fentanyl.
"We are operating within a fundamentally broken immigration system — everyone agrees on that point — but only Congress has the power to update our immigration and asylum laws, and we continue to stand ready to work with Congress on solutions," the OMB letter states.
Nevertheless, the top Democrat on the House Border Security and Enforcement Subcommittee, Rep. Lou Correa, D-Calf., called the supplemental border funding "good public policy" in a statement, adding that the funding would "be crucial, and will be used to ensure that those on our nation's frontlines have the resources they need to keep our border safe, secure, and humane—all while keeping legitimate trade, commerce, goods and services flowing, and protecting our communities from illicit drugs and human traffickers."
The request comes after President Biden and Speaker McCarthy reached an agreement to raise the debt limit and avoid default last spring, which included spending caps. Administration officials believe that agreement doesn't preclude emergency legislation such as this request.
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