The White House on Friday asked Congress for nearly $106 billion to fund ambitious plans for Ukraine, Israel and U.S. border security, but offered no strategy for getting the money from a broken Congress.
President Joe Biden’s funding plea comes days after he visited Israel and pledged solidarity as the country bombs Gaza following an attack by Hamas terrorists that killed 1,400 people in southern Israel.
By bundling funding for Israel with Ukraine, border security, refugee aid, measures to counter China and other hotly debated priorities, the Democratic president hopes to have created a passable national security spending bill. It is mandatory that one can gain support in a chaotic House of Representatives.
The House, which Republicans gained control of last year, has been without a leader for 18 days.
Some Republican lawmakers have been skeptical about the need to fund Ukraine’s war with Russia, threatening to completely shut down the government to end chronic U.S. budget deficits and fiscal spending fueled by a $31 debt of 4 trillion dollars.
“The world is watching, and the American people rightly expect their leaders to come together and deliver on these priorities,” Biden’s budget director, Shalanda Young, said in a letter to acting House Speaker Patrick McHenry. “I urge Congress to address them as part of a comprehensive, bipartisan agreement in the coming weeks.”
In a call with reporters, Young said the White House’s role is to lay out the country’s needs and what is at stake, not to meddle in the battle for House speakership.
“We are doing our job letting Congress know what the critical needs are, and we expect them to act, and to act quickly,” he said.
He also informed Congress of his plans to submit “in the coming days” another request for funding to address natural disasters, high-speed Internet, childcare, and pay for wildland firefighters.
Some $14.3 billion of Friday’s funding request for fiscal 2024 would be dedicated to Israel, much of it to support the country’s air and missile defense systems and other weapons purchases. Israel has vowed to end Hamas, which rules Gaza, following the Islamist terrorist group’s Oct 7 attack.
Hardline conservative Jim Jordan, an ally of former Republican President Donald Trump who opposes more aid to Ukraine, invoked Israel ahead of his third attempt to get enough votes for the House leader’s job.
“The sooner we get this done, the better for the American people, who expect us to work for them, and for our friends and allies, like the great State of Israel,” Jordan declared. He seemed set to lose the speakership vote again on Friday.
Biden also wants more than $9 billion for humanitarian aid, including for Israel and Gaza, where people face an increasingly serious humanitarian crisis.
The proposal also includes $13.6 billion for U.S. border security to address the large number of Latin American and Caribbean immigrants on the southern border, as well as the fentanyl trade, and $4 billion in military aid and government funding to counter China’s regional efforts in Asia. The funding will also support the “AUKUS” Pacific security partnership between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Unwavering support for Ukraine
But the bulk of the cash, $61.4 billion, would go to Ukraine. The request includes billions to replenish the country’s military equipment and would provide economic and security aid and support to refugees in the United States. The war with Russia has now been going on for 20 months, and Biden has promised to support Ukraine indefinitely.
“The unwavering bipartisan support for Ukraine in the United States is incredibly encouraging for all our warriors and our entire nation,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky wrote on social media on Friday. “America’s investment in Ukraine’s defense will ensure long-term security for all of Europe and the world,” he said. Zelensky spoke with Biden on Thursday.
About four in 10 respondents in a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted last week said the United States should support Israel’s position in the current conflict when given a range of options. Nearly half said Americans should remain neutral or not get involved.
In another Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted earlier this month, roughly the same proportion agreed with the statement that Washington “should provide weapons to Ukraine.”
“American leadership is what holds the world together. “American alliances are what keep us, America, safe,” Biden said in an address to the nation in the Oval Office on Thursday night.