Pentagon makes last-minute push to save Ukraine aid as shutdown looms
The Washington Post September 30, 2023
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Pentagon officials are making a last-minute lobbying push Saturday on Capitol Hill to prevent Congress from stripping aid to Ukraine from a funding agreement, as lawmakers run out of time to avert a government shutdown, according to two people with knowledge of the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations.
In conversations throughout the day, the Defense Department officials stressed to House and Senate leadership on both sides of the aisle the importance of approving aid to Kyiv as Ukraine continues to try to fight off Russia’s invasion, the people said. House Republicans are trying to advance a government funding bill that leaves out funding for Ukraine, alarming officials in Kyiv but paving the way for averting a government shutdown otherwise set to start at 12:01 a.m.
“Republicans are forcing us to choose between supporting Ukraine and averting a shutdown, and the administration is very concerned,” a congressional aide said.
With less than 12 hours to go until government appropriations lapse, the House is taking up legislation that includes disaster funding and keeps federal operations going at current spending levels, but includes none of the $20 billion President Biden has said is necessary to support Ukraine in its war against Russia. Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) advanced the legislation after months of GOP infighting over funding the government, hoping to prevent the Republican-controlled House from shouldering the blame for a shutdown.
A Pentagon spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment. Friday evening, Michael McCord, a Defense undersecretary, sent a letter to House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) decrying a “funding cutoff” for Ukraine.
“DOD has exhausted nearly all available security assistance funding for Ukraine,” the letter states.
Senate leaders had advanced legislation to fund the government until November that included roughly $6 billion for Ukraine, with the hope that lawmakers could approve the rest of the aid later in the year. But with so little time to avert a shutdown, the Senate will now face immense pressure to pass the House bill even without aid for Ukraine.
Supporters of Ukraine say failure to pass the aid will encourage Russian President Vladimir Putin and likely lead European allies to pare back their support for the war.