US President Joe Biden urgently requested Friday military aid for Ukraine and Israel in a massive $106 billion national security package, but Republican paralysis in Congress means it hit an immediate wall.
Biden’s demand came a day after he drew a direct link between the Hamas attack on Israel and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine to convince Americans that the United States must show global leadership.
The 80-year-old Democrat argued in an impassioned Oval Office speech that the huge sums involved — a total of $105.85 billion, including $61 billion in military aid for Ukraine and $14 billion for Israel — would secure US interests for generations.
But Biden’s request comes as the US House of Representatives remains in chaos, with Republicans, who hold a narrow majority, in their worst meltdown for decades and unable to elect a speaker.
“The world is watching and the American people rightly expect their leaders to come together and deliver on these priorities,” White House Office of Management and Budget director Shalanda Young said in a letter to Congress.
“I urge Congress to address them as part of a comprehensive, bipartisan agreement in the weeks ahead.”
Biden’s mega aid package yokes a host of disparate crises together in the hope that an appeal to US national unity will help shake House Republicans out of their dysfunction.
And it throws an olive branch to Republicans in the form of $6.4 billion in funding for the migration crisis at the southern border with Mexico — a central concern for the right-wing party.
The package also includes $7 billion for countering China and strengthening allies in the Asia-Pacific region, and over $9 billion for humanitarian assistance for Gaza, Ukraine and Israel.
But most importantly, however, the huge funding ask is an attempt to bolster waning support for Ukraine by linking it with funding for Israel — which does have widespread bipartisan backing.
There is considerable support in Congress for Ukraine, including among prominent Republicans in the Senate, where the Democrats hold the majority.
Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer promised quick action in the upper house.
“Senate Democrats will move expeditiously on this request, and we hope that our Republican colleagues across the aisle will join us to pass this much-needed funding,” he said in a statement.
“This legislation is too important to wait for the House to settle their chaos.”
However, it’s not clear that even if Republicans set aside their squabbling and choose a speaker they would then agree to pass more aid for Ukraine.
A growing number of Republicans — and US voters in general — oppose to adding to the $43.9 billion in security assistance that the United States has committed to Ukraine since Moscow launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022.
An earlier request for aid for Ukraine was stalled when Republican House speaker Kevin McCarthy was ousted in a rebellion in September.
In the 17 days since, no Republican has been able to get enough support from the party to replace him. The latest to try, Donald Trump-ally Jim Jordan, failed for a third time on Friday.
Biden’s speech on Thursday drew the link between the wars in Ukraine and Israel as part of a vision of the US as a “beacon to the world” confronting “terrorists” like Hamas and “tyrants” like Putin.
It was Biden’s bid to remind Americans of the decades-long US geopolitical stance as leader of the Western democracies.
The Kremlin on Friday denounced Biden’s comments.
“We do not accept such a tone in relation to the Russian Federation, in relation to our president,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
Peskov said such “rhetoric is hardly suitable for responsible leaders of states, and it can hardly be acceptable to us.”
US efforts to “contain” Russia would prove ineffective, he added.
Biden, meanwhile, welcomed European Union leaders Charles Michel and Ursula von der Leyen to the White House on Friday, at a summit set to deliver a message of unity on conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine.