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By KEVIN FREKING and COLLEEN LONG
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden said Sunday that American aid to Ukraine will keep flowing for now as he sought to reassure allies of continued U.S. financial support for the war effort. But time is running out, the president said in a warning to Congress.
“We cannot under any circumstances allow America’s support for Ukraine to be interrupted,” Biden said in remarks from the Roosevelt Room after Congress averted a government shutdown by passing a short-term funding package late Saturday that dropped assistance for Ukraine in the battle against Russia.
“We have time, not much time, and there’s an overwhelming sense of urgency,” he said, noting that the funding bill lasts only until mid-November. Biden urged Congress to negotiate an aid package as soon as possible.
“The vast majority of both parties — Democrats and Republicans, Senate and House — support helping Ukraine and the brutal aggression that is being thrust upon them by Russia,” Biden said. “Stop playing games, get this done.’’
But many lawmakers acknowledge that winning approval for Ukraine assistance in Congress is growing more difficult as the war grinds on.
Republican resistance to the aid has been gaining momentum and the next steps are ahead, given the resistance from the hard-right flank.
While Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has begun a process to potentially consider legislation providing additional Ukraine aid, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., faces a more difficult task in keeping the commitment he made over the objections of nearly half of his GOP majority.
He told CBS’ “Face on the Nation” that he supported “being able to make sure Ukraine has the weapons that they need,” but that his priority was security at the U.S.-Mexico border.
By omitting additional Ukraine aid from the measure to keep the government running, McCarthy closed the door on a Senate package that would have funneled $6 billion to Ukraine, roughly one-third of what has been requested by the White House. Both the House and Senate overwhelmingly approved the stopgap measure, with members of both parties abandoning the increased aid in favor of avoiding a costly government shutdown.
Now Biden is working to reassure U.S. allies that more money will be there for Ukraine.
Foreign allies, though, were concerned. European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Sunday from Kyiv that he believed it wouldn’t be the last word, but he noted the EU’s continued substantial financial support for Ukraine and a new proposal on the table.
The latest actions in Congress signal a gradual shift in the unwavering support that the United States has so far pledged Ukraine in its fight against Russia, and it is one of the clearest examples yet of the Republican Party’s movement toward a more isolationist stance. The exclusion of the money for Ukraine came little more than a week after lawmakers met in the Capitol with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. He sought to assure them that his military was winning the war, but stressed that additional assistance would be crucial.
After that visit, Schumer said that one sentence summed up Zelenskyy’s message in his meeting with the Senate: “’If we don’t get the aid, we will lose the war,” Schumer said.