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US Congress working to prevent government shutdown, further delays in Ukraine aid likely

by Nate Ostiller and The Kyiv Independent news desk March 21, 2024 9:08 AM 2 min read
The U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 13, 2023. (Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Congressional Integrity Project)
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The U.S. Congress is frantically working to prevent a government shutdown ahead of the deadline on March 22, leaving it little time to focus on passing aid for Ukraine. A two-week Easter recess is scheduled to begin immediately after and extend until April 8, likely adding further delays to any potential votes on the issue.

Following months of delays, the U.S. Senate passed an aid bill containing around $60 billion in funding for Ukraine in February, but House Speaker Mike Johnson has so far refused to put it to a vote in his chamber, despite the pressure from the White House and other members of Congress.

The Pentagon was able to cobble together $300 million in funding for Ukraine earlier in March, the first such aid package in months, but defense officials warned it was unlikely to be repeated and that congressional action will be required for further aid.

As Congress is working to resolve funding disputes, primarily centered around domestic political issues, Johnson declined to put a timetable on putting aid for Ukraine to a vote.

Earlier in March, the Hill and other outlets reported that Johnson and other Republicans were considering significant alterations to Ukraine aid, with one version proposing treating nonmilitary aid to Ukraine as a loan.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell dismissed the idea on March 20, saying that instituting such considerable changes would further delay the potential passage of the aid.

"We're running out of time. And the best way we can get Ukraine the help they need is for the House to pass the Senate bill," McConnell said.

"The problem with changing it...is it can take three days to do the simplest thing here in the Senate. We don't have the time."

While the $300 million in funding delivered earlier in March may buy Ukraine some time, U.S. officials cautioned that it would have a short-term impact and should not be considered a replacement for the larger aid bill still tied up in Congres.

Despite the deadlock, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said he was confident the aid would eventually pass in comments during his surprise visit to Kyiv on March 20.

Sullivan vows US will deliver $60 billion aid package during visit to Kyiv
During his surprise visit to Kyiv on March 20, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan vowed that the United States would deliver a $60 billion aid package to Ukraine despite its current impasse in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
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