U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday asked Congress to sign off on billions in emergency funds for Ukraine as it continues to battle against Russia's invasion. File Photo by Ukrainian President Press Office/UPI | License Photo
Aug. 11 (UPI) -- The Biden administration has asked Congress for more than $40 billion in emergency funding, much of which is to support Ukraine's defense against Russia, counter China's influence lending program and fund other foreign policy missions.
Though funds are directed at foreign policy objectives, the ask includes billions to be infused into natural disaster recovery efforts and immigration-related issues at home.
Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young sent the letter Thursday to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., making it the Biden administration's first request since the Republicans regained control of the Congressional chamber early this Year.
"I urge the Congress to take swift action to provide the additional funding requested to follow-through on our commitment to the Ukrainian peoples' defense of their homeland and to democracy around the world; to address the shortfall for disaster response and adequately support our wild land firefighters; and to combat fentanyl smuggling and continue our progress in responding to the humanitarian and border security situation at the United States Southwestern border," she said.
The funding request is for the first quarter of fiscal year 2024.
More than half of the funding at some $24 billion has been requested to cover assistance for Ukraine, including roughly $13 billion for weapons and defense and $8 billion for humanitarian support.
The breakdown includes $4.5 billion to replenish U.S. stockpiles from which weapons have been sent to Kyiv under the president's drawdown authority, and $5 billion for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative that sees the Pentagon secure weaponry for the war-torn country from partners and private companies.
Another $3.3 billion has been requested for the Economic Support Fund account, to provide three additional months of budget support to Ukraine as well as tens of millions for global food security. An additional $1 billion was asked to support Ukraine, NATO allies and other partners to bolsters their military capabilities, as well as support the U.S.-Taiwan defense relationship.
The Biden administration have also asked for $1 billion to establish a new account that is earmarked to fund projects that would stand as an alternative for developing countries to China's "coercive and unsustainable lending and infrastructure projects," Young said.
An additional $200 million has been asked to undercut the malicious actions by private militia Wagner and other Russian actors in Africa while including funds to bolster African nations' democratic institutions and security.
At tens of billions of dollars, the United States is by far the largest supporter of Ukraine in its fight against Russia, and President Joe Biden has been adamant that Washington will stand by Kyiv's side for as long as it takes, though some Republicans have criticized the administration's support, wondering if it will ever end.
"Sustaining our direct budget support helps reinforce Ukraine's brave resistance and mitigate the consequences of Russia's brutal war by providing the government of Ukraine with the resources it needs to deliver essential services, such as healthcare, education and funding for emergency first responders including after Russian air strikes," Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement supporting the budget request.
"The United States will continue to lead the worldwide coalition we have built in supporting Ukraine, particularly as U.S. assistance catalyzes further financial support from other countries and the international financial institutions."
Another roughly $12 billion has been requested to fund the Federal Emergency Management Agency as it deals with unprecedented natural disasters nationwide.
Young said the funds will ensure that FEMA can continue to do its work in communities that have been reeling from natural disasters and maintain sufficient preparedness to respond to future events.
Among the request is tens of millions to pay wild land fire fighters, as without Congressional action, 20,000 would see their pay cut to as low as $15 an hour as of October, she said.
Meanwhile, another $4 billion has been requested to deal with border issues, including tackling the influx of illicit drugs, such as fentanyl, and for border management operations.
"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 [Russian President] Vladimir Putin, the Chinese government and others of America's resolve when it comes to defending democracy around the world," Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement in support of the request.
"We hope to join with our Republican colleagues this fall to avert an unnecessary government shutdown and fund this critical emergency supplemental request."