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Arsenal of Democracy

Biden requests $33 billion for Ukraine fight as Congress passes 'lend-lease' arms authorization

The House on Thursday cleared a bill that will allow President Biden to more easily supply weapons to Ukraine to help it fend off Russia's invasion, using a 1941 lend-lease law created to arm allies against Hitler. "Passage of that act enabled Great Britain and Winston Churchill to keep fighting and to survive the fascist Nazi bombardment until the United States could enter the war," Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) said. "President Zelensky has said that Ukraine needs weapons to sustain themselves, and President Biden has answered that call."

The Senate passed the bipartisan Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act by unanimous consent earlier this month, and the House sent it to Biden's desk on a vote of 417 to 10. Hours earlier, Biden had asked Congress for another $33 billion for the Ukraine fight. 

The new package, which the White House said should last about five months, would allocate about $20 billion to defense spending for Ukraine and U.S. allies in the region — including $6 billion to arm Ukraine directly, $4.5 billion for other security assistance, and $5.4 billion to replace U.S. arms sent to Europe — plus $3 billion for global food and humanitarian programs, including incentives to get U.S. farmers to increase wheat yields and other crops Ukraine normally exports.

There's strong bipartisan support for aiding Ukraine, and the money will probably be approved, but Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) called the budget request "a pretty eye-popping number." The $20 billion in military aid is "about one-third of Russia's entire military budget and is well over Ukraine's $6 billion defense expenditures," The Associated Press reports, citing 2021 figures. "Biden has proposed $800 billion for the Pentagon for next year."

"President Biden rightly said today that this step is not cheap," Zelensky said Thursday night. "But the negative consequences for the whole world from Russia's aggression against Ukraine and against democracy are so massive that by comparison the U.S. support is necessary."