Biden pushes Republicans on Ukraine, Israel aid bill Trump opposes

By Thomson Reuters Feb 14, 2024 | 11:06 AM

By Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden is pushing Republican lawmakers to back what the White House says is a critically needed funding bill for Ukraine’s war against Russia that is opposed by former President Donald Trump.

Trump’s opposition to the Senate-approved $95.34 billion military aid package for Ukraine and Israel means that it may never be voted on in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

The White House is sending Biden surrogates in coming days to states that benefit from the funding for American defense companies to make the case that the U.S. economy stands to gain if the package is approved.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan will press the White House’s case on Wednesday with a rare appearance in the press briefing room to take questions.

Biden national security spokesperson John Kirby has staged a flurry of media appearances to push for the funding. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is joining the effort and current and former national security aides will participate, a senior administration official said.

Vice President Kamala Harris was expected to make the case for the legislation while on a trip to the Munich Security Conference this week.

After the Senate passed the bill early on Tuesday, a bipartisan group of lawmakers promptly began urging House Speaker Mike Johnson to bring it up for a vote in the chamber, which his party narrowly controls. Both houses of Congress must approve the legislation before Biden can sign it into law.

Johnson indicated again on Wednesday he has no immediate plans to allow the chamber to vote on the package, saying “we’re not going to be forced into action by the Senate.”

The United States and its allies are worried about how long Ukraine can hold off the Russians if the funding is not approved soon.

Biden, in remarks on Tuesday, said that while the weaponry would help Ukraine, the money would be spent in the United States “in places like Arizona, where the Patriot missiles are built; and Alabama, where the Javelin missiles are built; and Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Texas, where artillery shells are made.”

The package, which also includes security funding for Israel and Taiwan and humanitarian aid for Palestinians, has faced opposition from Republican hardliners, particularly those most closely aligned with Trump.

Biden argued that Russian President Vladimir Putin stands to gain if the money is not approved.

“Supporting this bill is standing up to Putin, opposing it is playing into Putin’s hands,” he said.

(Reporting By Steve Holland, additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle; editing by Heather Timmons and Jonathan Oatis)