By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON -U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Friday she hopes to pass a $33 billion aid package for Ukraine requested by President Joe Biden “as soon as possible.”
Biden asked Congress on Thursday for the money to support the government in Kyiv – a dramatic escalation of U.S. funding for Ukraine more than two months after it was invaded by Russia.
Lawmakers from both parties said they wanted to approve the emergency funding request quickly, but there was no immediate word on exactly when the House and Senate might vote amid disputes over what should be in any legislation.
“We hope to as soon as possible pass that legislation,” Pelosi told her weekly news conference.
Biden’s funding request includes over $20 billion for weapons, ammunition and other military assistance, as well as $8.5 billion in direct economic assistance to the Ukrainian government and $3 billion in humanitarian aid.
Democrats, who narrowly control Congress, and Republicans disagree over whether to combine the Ukraine funding with billions of dollars for COVID-19 relief that Biden requested in March.
Some Republicans have said they want the two issues to be separate, but some Democrats have seen support for Ukraine aid as a chance to pass COVID relief.
Pelosi said lawmakers would have to “come to terms” with how to address both issues.
“We have emergencies here. We need to have the COVID money and time is of the essence because we need the Ukraine money, we need the COVID money, so I would hope that we can do that,” Pelosi said.
Some Republicans have also threatened to tie Biden’s funding requests to legislation that would prevent him rescinding Title 42, an immigration rule imposed under Republican President Donald Trump that allows U.S. officials to turn asylum seekers away from the U.S. border with Mexico due to the COVID pandemic.
Pelosi’s comments came a day after the House overwhelmingly backed legislation to make it easier to export military equipment to Ukraine, reviving the Lend-Lease Act that helped defeat Adolf Hitler’s Germany during World War Two.
It was the latest in a series of bills passed by the U.S. Congress to support Ukraine.
In Kyiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called the bill’s passage “concrete proof” that freedom can defend itself against tyranny.
“I am sure now that the Lend-Lease will help Ukraine and the whole free world to beat the ideological successors of the Nazis, who started a war against us,” he said in a late night address on Friday.
Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation” to disarm Ukraine and protect it from fascists. Ukraine and the West say this a false pretext for an unprovoked Russian war of aggression.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle, Katharine Jackson and David Ljunggren; Editing by Tim Ahmann, Kevin Liffey and Rosalba O’Brien)