US President Joe Biden sought military aid for Ukraine and Israel in a mammoth $106 billion national security package on Friday, but Republican gridlock in Congress means it will encounter an instant roadblock.
Biden’s demand comes a day after he used the Hamas attack on Israel and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine to persuade Americans that the United States must exercise global leadership.
In an impassioned Oval Office speech, the 80-year-old Democrat said that the massive sums involved — a total of $105.85 billion, including $61 billion in military aid to Ukraine and $14 billion to Israel — would guarantee US interests for centuries.
However, Biden’s plea comes at a time when the US House of Representatives is in disarray, with Republicans, who control a slim majority, in their worst crisis in decades and unable to nominate 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 massive aid plan combines a slew of unconnected crises in the expectation that an appeal to US national unity will jolt House Republicans out of their stupor.
It also extends an olive branch to Republicans by allocating $6.4 billion to the migrant situation at the southern border with Mexico, a key priority for the right-wing party.
The package also includes $7 billion to oppose China and reinforce Asia-Pacific partners, as well as more than $9 billion in humanitarian aid for Gaza, Ukraine, and Israel.
Most crucially, the massive financial request is an attempt to shore up dwindling support for Ukraine by connecting it to money for Israel, which has widespread bipartisan support.
Ukraine has widespread backing in Congress, including from senior Republicans in the Senate, where 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 is unclear whether Republicans would agree to extra help for Ukraine even if they put aside their squabbling and chose a speaker.
A growing majority of Republicans, as well as US citizens in general, oppose adding to the $43.9 billion in security assistance pledged by the US to Ukraine since Moscow launched its full-fledged invasion in February 2022.
An earlier request for help for Ukraine was halted in September when Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was removed in a revolt.
In the 17 days since, no Republican has received enough party support to replace him. The most recent attempt, by Donald Trump supporter Jim Jordan, failed for the third time on Friday.
In his speech on Thursday, Biden linked the wars in Ukraine and Israel as part of a vision of the US as a “beacon to the world” battling “terrorists” like Hamas and “tyrants” like Putin.
It was Biden’s attempt to remind Americans of the United States’ decades-long role as the leader of 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.
Meanwhile, Biden welcomed European Union leaders Charles Michel and Ursula von der Leyen to the White House on Friday, ahead of a summit intended to send a message of unity on the conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine.