- The Washington Times
Monday, May 9, 2022

Congress appeared on verge of a deal Monday to quickly pass a military and humanitarian aid package for Ukraine of nearly $40 billion after Democrats backed off an effort to link it with more COVID funding.

President Biden said that to smooth passage of the aid bill, Democrats would drop their push to tie the package to a long-stalled $10 billion coronavirus funding measure.

“We cannot afford delay in this vital war effort,” said Mr. Biden. “Hence, I am prepared to accept that these two measures move separately, so that the Ukrainian aid bill can get to my desk right away.”

Mr. Biden’s retreat comes after weeks of bipartisan bickering that had all but derailed momentum to speedily aid Ukraine.

Democrats, despite claiming that timely passage was needed to ensure Ukraine’s survival, initially sought to link the emergency aid to the stalled $10 billion coronavirus funding measure.

Republicans objected to the maneuver, having blocked consideration last month of the coronavirus funding over Mr. Biden’s decision to end Title 42 — a pandemic emergency order blocking illegal migrants from entering the U.S.

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“Democrats actually want Congress to approve more funding specifically because COVID is not finished,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican. “The Biden administration’s official position is that the pandemic is over for illegal immigrants but not for the American people.”

In exchange for coupling coronavirus funding to Ukraine aid, Republicans had demanded Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer allow a simple up or down vote on an amendment prohibiting the White House from canceling Title 42.

Mr. Schumer, New York Democrat, refused overtures out of fear that the amendment would pass with ample help from Democrats. Nearly a half-dozen Democratic senators have pushed back on Mr. Biden’s decision to rescind Title 42.

“This is such a serious crisis that even a number of Democrats are turning against the president,” said Sen. John Barrasso, Wyoming Republican. “A lot of them are people who are running for reelection.”

Some Democrats, like Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, have even urged the White House to keep Title 42 in place until Congress can fashion a bipartisan immigration deal.

With no clear resolution in sight, Mr. Biden opted to let Congress pass both measures separately. The move all but assures that aid to Ukraine will pass with strong bipartisan support as early as this week.  

“I think we will be able to do it as quickly as possible,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat. “We have great bipartisanship in terms of our support for the fight for democracy that the people of Ukraine are making.”

• Haris Alic can be reached at halic@washingtontimes.com.

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