WASHINGTON (AP) — On the heels of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s emotional appeal for continued U.S. support, the Senate voted Thursday to ensure the money keeps flowing for years, even after Republicans take control of the House.
Ukraine will receive $44.9 billion in aid as part of the massive $1.7 trillion government spending bill. Passed by the Senate with a vote of 68-29, the bill now goes to the House for a final vote before it can be sent to President Joe Biden to be signed into law.
The bill funds the government through the fiscal year ending in September, but it would give the Pentagon authority to spend the money through 2025 in some circumstances.
That could ease Ukraine’s concerns that funding may be threatened after Republicans take charge of the House next month. Though Ukraine aid has largely had bipartisan support, scattered rumblings have fueled worries that a divided Congress might be less able to agree on continuing support for Ukraine. House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy has warned that Republicans would not write a “blank check” for Ukraine.
Speaking to Congress on Wednesday evening. Zelenskyy urged both parties to continue funding his country’s fight with Russia, saying it represented far more than just helping Ukraine’s front lines.
“Your money is not charity. It’s an investment in the global security and democracy that we handle in the most responsible way,” Zelenskyy said.
In a nod toward Republican concerns about how Ukraine money is being spent and tracked, the funding includes $6 million for additional inspector general reports, with requirements for the IG to come before Congress within 90 days of the bill’s passage. It also sets two other provisions requiring the Pentagon and State Department to send regular reports to Capitol Hill on all defense items provided, with special emphasis on more sensitive weapon systems.
More than half of the almost $45 billion will pay to keep additional U.S. troops and aircraft in Europe, continue the flow of weapons to Kyiv, and help replenish U.S. stockpiles of weapons that have been sent to Ukraine.
“I think that the intent is to show continued support,” said Stacie Pettyjohn, defense program director at the Center for a New American Security.
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the administration appreciates “the flexibility that it will give us to continue to support Ukraine.”
The largest chunk of the defense portion of the Ukraine support bill, almost $21.2 billion, will be used to provide weapons to Ukraine and replenish U.S. stockpiles. The U.S. has already provided more than $19 billion in weapons since Russia invaded in February.
Separately, the White House announced Wednesday it is providing an additional $1.85 billion in military assistance to Ukraine, to include for the first time a Patriot surface-to-air missile battery.
The package includes funding for additional satellite communications terminals and service to augment the Starlink terminals that have kept Ukraine connected since Russia invaded. It also includes, for the first time, Joint Direct Attack Munitions kits, which modify large bombs with tail fins and GPS, so instead of being dropped in a free fall over a target, they can be released and directed to that target.
The larger $45 billion package also looks longer term, including humanitarian aid for Ukraine and the funding to restore U.S. weapons stockpiles
The bill includes $700 million to help U.S. weapons manufacturers replace stockpiles that have been repeatedly tapped in the last year as the U.S. rushed ammunition, anti-tank weapons, anti-aircraft weapons and now sophisticated air defense systems onto the Ukrainian battlefield to repel Russian troops.
That money will pay for U.S. defense firms to buy the land, equipment and machine tools necessary to expand weapons manufacturing plants, “for the purpose of increasing production of critical munitions to replace defense articles provided to the government of Ukraine, or foreign countries that have provided support to Ukraine at the request of the United States,” according to the bill.
The Ukraine funding package includes more than $126 million to help Ukraine address nuclear non-proliferation security concerns following Russian attacks on the Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhia nuclear power stations.
It also provides $90 million to cover U.S. personnel costs, including hardship pay for soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Space Force Guardians who have been deployed to Europe to bolster NATO defenses and almost $875 million for those services to use for Ukraine-related expenses.
Associated Press writer Aamer Madhani contributed to this report.