US averts government shutdown but raises questions about future support for Ukrainian
US president Joe Biden signed a temporary funding bill late on Saturday evening, preventing a government shutdown. The bipartisan spending package will not cut financing to American government programmes, but it excludes additional funding for Ukraine.
Three hours before the midnight deadline, the Senate voted to pass the funding bill allowing government agencies to stay open for 45 days while the House and Senate take more time to finish their legislation.
Ongoing relief funding for Ukraine's war against Russia has been omitted. Republican Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy proposed this modification to the stopgap bill on Saturday morning in an attempt to quell weeks of fighting within the Republican party that has prohibited them from passing the bill in the chamber.
The stopgap bill originally included funding for Ukraine, which was dropped after pushback from some conservatives. This closed the door on a Senate package that would have channelled 6 billion dollars to Ukraine, approximately a third of what was requested by the White House. The bill, which passed in the House with an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote, was then sent to the Senate, where the final vote was 88 to 9.
The decision to halt extra funding comes nine days after Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky visited the White House. During his meeting with lawmakers, he assured them that Ukraine was winning the war against Russia but still needed more reinforcements.
Discussions about funding Ukraine have been contentious in both Congress and the Senate. Democratic lawmakers have been predominantly in support of continued aid to Ukraine. "I can’t believe people are going to walk away from Ukraine at this moment in time,” said Mark R Warner, the Democratic Senator from Virginia on Saturday.
Meanwhile, nearly half of the House Republicans voted to block 300 million dollars from a defence spending bill that would train Ukrainian soldiers and supply them with weapons. This money was later approved, but Republican opposition to extra financial aid has grown steadily. On Saturday, Republican congressman Michael Lawler from New York said: “If you’re telling the American people with a straight face you will shut down the American government over Ukraine, then shame on you."
Since the start of the war, the US has approved 113 billion dollars for Ukrainian use, with some of the money going towards refurbishing US military equipment sent to the frontlines. In August, Biden urged Congress to provide an additional 24 billion dollars.
US House speaker Kevin McCarthy speaks to the media following passage in the House of a 45-day continuing resolution © PHOTO NATHAN HOWARD/GETTY IMAGES