The U.S. House of Representatives voted 310-110 on Dec. 14 to approve a defense spending bill with a record total of $886 billion. The bill has already been passed by the Senate, but it still needs to be signed by President Joe Biden, who is expected to support it.
The National Defense Authorization Act is an annual bill that Congress has approved on a bipartisan basis for over 60 years. It contains a full spectrum of defense spending, including $300 million in funds for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative.
The initiative is scheduled to last through 2026, and the bill authorizes $300 million for the program through the end of the 2024 fiscal year, and for the year following.
The defense budget that the Senate authorized on Dec. 13 allocates funds for weapons purchases, personnel pay raises, and foreign aid initiatives. It also provides funding to create the Office of the Special Inspector General for Ukraine Assistance to oversee and audit the distribution of U.S. aid.
The bill also contains a provision that requires an act of Congress for the U.S. to withdraw from NATO, which previous President Donald Trump has implied he would consider if reelected in 2024.
The funds earmarked for Ukraine fall far short of the $61 billion in aid that Biden has urged Congress to authorize before the end of the year. The Senate voted down the funding request on Dec. 6, with Republican legislators refusing to support aid to Ukraine unless Democrats agreed to aggressive restrictions on immigrants and asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border.
The vote came on the same day Russian leader Vladimir Putin reaffirmed his commitment to maximalist war goals in Ukraine during an annual press conference.
"Vladimir Putin, in his annual press conference, doubled down on his goal of conquering Ukraine and subjugating its people," said U.S. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby.
"I sure hope that those House Republicans who have, for months, held hostage critical assistance to Ukraine heard Putin’s message loud and clear," he added.
Kirby criticized Congress for trying to go on holiday recess before deciding on funding for Ukraine.
"(Ukraine) needs our help. And they need it now, not after the eggnog."
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced on Dec. 14 that the Senate will delay its holiday break, scheduled to start on Dec. 15, to vote on the bill.