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US debt ceiling battle rekindles debate over Ukraine funds

Tan KW
Publish date: Wed, 07 Jun 2023, 12:58 PM
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WASHINGTON The battle to raise the US debt ceiling rekindled debate in Congress over funding for Ukraine, as House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy said on Tuesday that he had no immediate plans to take up legislation to boost defence spending beyond what was in last week's deal.

McCarthy's comments could signal a tougher road through Congress when President Joe Biden next asks for additional funds for Ukraine. The House and Senate last approved aid for the Kyiv government - US$48 billion - in December, before Republicans took control of the House.

That money is expected to last at least through Sept 30, the end of the current fiscal year. Lawmakers said Biden is expected to request more funds by August or September.

The debt ceiling agreement, which Biden signed into law on Saturday, capped national security spending in the year ending Sept 30, 2024 at US$886 billion, the amount Biden requested but below what congressional defence hawks wanted.

After some Republicans threatened to vote against the deal over the tightened defence spending, the Senate's Democratic and Republican leaders promised that the caps would not prevent the chamber from passing supplemental spending legislation to provide more money for Ukraine and the Department of Defense.

However, McCarthy, who negotiated the agreement with Biden, said he would not automatically allow a vote on supplemental spending legislation in the Republican-led House.

"It doesn't matter if it's Ukraine or anything else. The idea that someone wants to go do a supplemental after we just came to an agreement is trying to blow the agreement," McCarthy told reporters at the Capitol.

Some Senate Republicans disagree

However, some Republican senators still said they believed a supplemental spending bill would be necessary.

"I strongly believe we are going to need a supplemental for defence," Senator Susan Collins, the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, told reporters.

McCarthy said he supported Ukraine and helping Ukraine to defeat the Russian invasion but would want more information before moving ahead.

"I'm not giving money for the sake of giving money. I want to see what is the purpose, what is the outcome you want to achieve and then show me the plan to see if I think that plan actually can work?" he said.

House Republicans want any money for Ukraine - or other priorities - to move ahead via "regular order" with Congress debating and passing the 12 appropriations bills lawmakers will work on this summer to fund government programmes in the fiscal year beginning Oct 1.

Overall, the House and Senate have approved more than US$113 billion of military assistance and other aid for Ukraine since Russia invaded in February 2022. The four tranches of assistance all passed with strong support from both Republicans and Democrats, although all were approved while Democrats controlled both the Senate and House.


  - Reuters


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