By Lawrence Wilson
President Joe Biden’s $40 million supplemental funding request faces two hurdles in Congress—the whopping price tag for additional federal spending items and the inclusion of an extra $24 billion in aid to Ukraine.
Some Republicans in both houses have said the request will be challenged on Capitol Hill.
The request was made via a letter from Shalanda Young, director of the Office of Management and Budget, to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and other congressional leaders on Aug. 10.
A spokesman for Mr. McCarthy told The Epoch Times the bill would not gain automatic approval in the House.
“A Republican-led House will not rubber-stamp any blank-check funding requests; rather, the Administration’s emergency funding requests must be reviewed and scrutinized on their merits consistent with the practice and principles of our majority,” the spokesman said.
That Republican majority fought to reduce federal spending in 2024 and impose a 1 percent cap on spending growth for 10 years in a compromise negotiated in June by Mr. McCarthy and President Biden. Even that apparent victory did not satisfy the most conservative House Republicans, who fought the McCarthy-Biden agreement believing that it did not do enough to reduce deficit spending.
The request includes $13.1 billion in military aid for Ukraine and $8.5 billion in economic and humanitarian relief. Aid for Ukraine has increasingly been questioned by some in Congress as that country’s war to repel the Russian invasion nears the end of a second summer with no U.S. exit strategy in place.
The president also requested $12 billion to replenish the federal Disaster Relief Fund, $3.3 billion to counter China’s influence in developing countries, $4 million for border security, services for illegal immigrants, and to combat the flow of fentanyl into the country.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) led the charge of criticism, accusing President Biden of political manipulation by combining the request for additional aid to Ukraine with approval of domestic disaster relief funds. Florida lawmakers on both sides of the aisle had already requested adding $11.5 billion to the DRF.
“President Biden owes Americans an explanation of his strategy, something he’s refused to do since Putin invaded Ukraine. We’ve seen incredible bravery by the Ukrainians over the last 18 months, but we’ve also seen U.S. stockpiles dwindle, European countries slow-walk critical supplies, and China grow more aggressive towards the U.S. and our national interests. We cannot give a blank check to continue the status quo,” Mr. Rubio said in a statement released on Aug. 10.
Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) has been a critic of the administration’s focus on Ukraine and the seeming lack of attention to inflation and other matters directly affecting Americans. In response to President Biden’s funding request, a Braun staffer pointed to the senator’s July 14 op-ed published in The Hill.
Mr. Braun wrote that the real question to ask is, “What is the endgame here? Our $100 billion contribution has already eclipsed Russia’s entire military budget. When that number hits $200 billion, $300 billion, or a trillion dollars, will we just keep paying?”
A number of House Republicans were also skeptical of sending more aid to Ukraine without an end in sight.
“Americans are struggling to pay for basic necessities, and our national credit rating just got downgraded for the second time in U.S. history. Yet this president wants to send $24 billion of our taxpayers’ money to Ukraine, a country we’ve already granted over $113 billion in unchecked assistance? I don’t think so,” Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) told The Epoch Times.
Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), who led opposition to the spending compromise negotiated with President Biden, was even more direct. “No. This should be a non-starter for the @HouseGOP. It’s time to stand up for Americans and against the uniparty. #NoSecurityNoFunding,” he wrote in an Aug. 10 post on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Eleven other House Republicans, led by Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio), wrote to President Biden on Aug. 11, stating their opposition to the additional spending and demanding that he clarify his intention for the Ukraine conflict.
“Americans are tired of funding endless wars and want policies that not only help restore fiscal sanity in Washington but also put America and American citizens first,” the group wrote.
“Before Congress can responsibly finance the ongoing proxy war in Ukraine, your administration has an obligation to explain, explicitly and officially, what the U.S. is trying to achieve in Ukraine.”
Other signers were Reps. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), Clay Higgins (R-La.), Scott Perry (R-Pa.), W. Gregory Steube (R-Fla.), Randy K. Weber Sr. (R-Texas), Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), Eli Crane (R-Ariz.), Andy Ogles (R-Tenn.), Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), and Ana Paulina Luna (R-Fla.).
The Biden request is likely to add additional fuel to the simmering conflict over the 2024 federal budget, which has revealed differing priorities among congressional Republicans.
Members of the House Freedom Caucus aim to limit discretionary spending to $1.471 trillion, which is below the amount negotiated by Mr. McCarthy. They have said they are not afraid to trigger a government shutdown in order to reach that goal.
“The American people gave us the majority back in November because we ran on fiscal responsibility,” Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.) said on July 25.
“We are committed to using every tool at our disposal to go back to the $1.471 [trillion] pre-COVID level spending for non-defense discretionary, and allowing defense to stay at the current levels,” Mr. Good said.
The House and Senate have each passed a version of the 2024 budget. Congress is expected to take up the reconciliation of the two bills when members return in September.