On Tuesday the White House underscored the need for Congress to pass more funding to aid Ukraine, while maintaining its confidence in bipartisan support for it, despite the turmoil unraveling over House speakership on the same day.
President Joe Biden held a call on Tuesday morning with nearly a dozen leaders of allies and partners to reaffirm the US commitment to Ukraine, in the wake of Congress’ decision to fund the government until Nov. 17th, without including additional Ukraine funding.
A White House request for around $24 billion in security, humanitarian and economic support for Ukraine was not included in the continuing resolution reached over the weekend to avoid a government shut down — despite bipartisan support from congressional members to continue Ukraine aid.
"The leaders discussed efforts to provide Ukraine with the ammunition and weapons systems it needs to defend its territory against Russian aggression, to strengthen Ukraine's air defenses to protect its critical infrastructure from Russia's aerial assaults now and in the coming months, and to repair and harden its energy infrastructure through this winter," a White House read out of the call stated. That call happened before the House vote to vacate Kevin McCarthy as Speaker.
President Biden spoke to the leaders about Congress' budget vote and shared confidence in continued bipartisan support, according to John Kirby, National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications.
"On the call, none of the foreign leaders expressed concerns about continued U.S. support. They understand what's going on up on Capitol Hill. They understand that this is a small minority of extreme Republicans that are holding this up ... and they understand that the bulk of Republican leadership, House and the Senate, all support Ukraine," Kirby said.
Officials have underscored the urgent nature of the funding, noting the already authorized presidential draw down authority remaining will help with urgent needs, perhaps for a couple months depending on Ukraine's needs, but is not a long term solution. Ukraine is in the midst of a counter offensive, ahead of the winter in which there are concerns about the targeting of critical infrastructure.
"The scope and the scale, the ferociousness of the fighting right now on the counteroffensive and the expenditure rate of munitions means that there has to be a sufficient production capability to back it up. And no other nation has that like the United States," Kirby said.
Administration officials have been in touch with Ukrainian counterparts, including Sec. Austin, who spoke with Ukrainian Minister of Defence Rustem Umerov on Monday to reiterate U.S. support. According to an official, they are continuing to underscore the need for funding in conversations with Congress.
While officials have previously pointed to then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s support for weapons to Ukraine, as the challenge to his speakership unfolded in the House, the White House was steadfast in their confidence for bipartisan support going forward.
"Regardless of what happens to the Speaker himself, every leader of every relevant national security committee in the House has committed to continue to supporting Ukraine," Kirby said. "Of course, there's strong support on the Senate side on both sides of the aisle, but the same is true in the House. The leadership and the vast majority of Republicans in Congress, in the House of Representatives support continuing to help Ukraine."
Ahead of the vote over the motion to vacate, the White House was clear it viewed it as a process for congressional members to handle, though it was critical of "chaos" among House Republicans.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre urged quick House action to elect a new speaker in a statement afterwards, saying, "President Biden has demonstrated that he is always eager to work with both parties in Congress in good faith on behalf of the American people. Because the urgent challenges facing our nation will not wait, he hopes the House will quickly elect a Speaker. The American people deserve leadership that puts the issues affecting their lives front and center, as President Biden did today with more historic action to lower prescription drug prices. Once the House has met their responsibility to elect a Speaker, he looks forward to working together with them and with the Senate to address the American peoples’ priorities."
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