US Senator John Thune (R-SD) speaks after a Republican lunch in the Senate on Capitol Hill in Washington on November 10, 2020.
Erin Scott | Reuters
President Joe Biden’s request for $ 33 billion in aid to Ukraine hit an early chin on Capitol Hill, where a dispute over immigration policy threatens to hamper an otherwise urgent request to help Kiev against Russia’s invasion.
The administration’s massive request to Congress, which includes more than $ 20 billion for military equipment such as artillery and armored vehicles, is popular with Democrats and Republicans.
But Republicans are protesting a new effort by Democrats to link the $ 33 billion with a separate bipartisan compromise that provides $ 10 billion in additional Covid aids.
Biden made the pairing explicit on Thursday in his formal request for Ukrainian help to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
“In order to avoid unnecessary deaths in the United States and around the world, I urge Congress to include this much-needed, life-saving COVID funding as part of this additional funding request,” he wrote.
Late. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, helped negotiate Covid relief funding, but the rest of his party is blocking the bill.
As part of the debate over multiple Covid funds, most Republicans in the Senate insist on forcing a vote on the Biden administration’s controversial decision to end a pandemic-era policy called Title 42, which allowed border agents to reject migrants at the southern border .
It is not an attractive option for Democrats and the White House, which has acknowledged turning over Title 42 is likely to lead to an increase in illegal border crossings.
Asked about tying the two priorities together, Pelosi said Friday that she is “all for it.”
“I think it is very important. We have emergencies here. We have to have the Covid money. And time is of the essence,” she said, referring to the ongoing war in Ukraine. “This is called legislation, and we’ll have to figure out how we do it.”
Neither side of the political corridor is eager to see a delay in support for Ukraine, prompting key Republicans to challenge the Biden administration in its efforts to pair the two efforts.
Aide to Senate Minority Whip John Thune, RS.D., told CNBC Friday morning that the senator would prefer to vote on aid to Kiev alone.
Representatives of Senator Schumer did not respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
Despite the party feud, Washington’s policy strategist Tom Block believes Republicans and Democrats have little appetite for delaying Ukrainian aid.
Block told CNBC that he expects Democrats to abandon their attempts to pair aid to Kiev with corona aid, as Romney, the key to the Covid deal, appears to be opposed to linking the two legislative efforts.
“While Democrats are talking about adding the Covid package to the Ukraine request, I expect it to drop over the next week or so,” Block wrote Friday morning.
“I think the Ukraine agreement will be approved by the Memorial Day break at the end of May and will be adopted by a large bipartisan majority,” he added.
Until then, Democrats may try to force the GOP into the politically treacherous stance of voting against a bill designed to help Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Friday doubled the president’s request to pass the bills together.
“We have been working hard to engage and have discussions with relevant members, committees, staff on the urgency of moving both of these requests forward,” Psaki said. “The president presented them, of course, because it is his preference that they move in together.”