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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Congress approves $40 billion in aid to Ukraine as bipartisan vote splits Northwest Republicans

This image from Senate Television video shows the final vote of 86-11 as the Senate overwhelmingly approved a $40 billion infusion of military and economic aid for Ukraine and its allies on Thursday, May 19, 2022, in Washington, as both parties rallied behind America's latest, and quite possibly not last, financial salvo against Russia's invasion.  (HOGP)

WASHINGTON – The Senate on Thursday approved $40 billion in military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine in a bipartisan measure backed by Democrats and most Republicans, while Northwest lawmakers reflected a national split among GOP lawmakers over the cost of the assistance.

The 87-11 vote sends the bill to President Joe Biden’s desk to be signed into law after the House passed it in a similarly bipartisan vote May 10. It brings the total U.S. assistance for Ukraine to nearly $54 billion since Russia launched its invasion in late February, an amount Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, said he couldn’t support without offsetting the spending to avoid expanding the federal deficit.

“I strongly support the United States assisting Ukraine in its own fight to remain free and independent from Russia’s totalitarian control, and providing assistance to Ukraine is a matter of both long-term national and economic security,” Crapo said in a statement. “However, any further spending must be offset.”

Crapo, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, was one of 11 GOP senators who opposed the legislation. Fellow Idaho Sen. Jim Risch voted for the bill along with 38 other Republicans. Risch, the lead Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, explained his vote in a statement to Bloomberg News .

“The message this sends is that the United States is committed, that we are going to stand with any country that is a democracy when there is an autocracy that attempts to overrun it,” Risch told a Bloomberg reporter. “Ronald Reagan spent eight years bringing down the Soviet Union and freeing the countries in its orbit. We are not going to abandon the effort he made. We are all in.”

In the House, 149 Republicans backed the bill while 57 opposed it, including Rep. Russ Fulcher, who represents North Idaho. In a statement, Fulcher objected to the cost – pointing out that it is roughly equivalent to the Justice Department’s annual budget – and to the limited time GOP lawmakers had to review the bill before voting on it.

“The situation in Ukraine is serious, and that is why I previously voted to supply military equipment for Ukraine and supported legislation to block Russian energy and timber imports,” Fulcher said. “However, equally serious is the federal government’s addiction to spending. We cannot continue to saddle future generations with this unsustainable debt.”

All three Republicans who represent Washington in the House – Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Spokane, Dan Newhouse of Sunnyside and Jaime Herrera Beutler of Battle Ground – voted for the additional aid .

“I stand by my vote to support Ukraine’s fight for independence against Vladimir Putin’s blatant power grab,” McMorris Rodgers said in a statement. “We promised freedom-loving Ukrainians we would help them defend against aggression nearly 30 years ago when they voluntarily shut down their nuclear arsenal. Putin will not stop in Ukraine, so our commitment to freedom and self-determination cannot and should not waver. If America is not strong in this moment, we risk facing catastrophic consequences around the world.”

No Democrat in either the House or Senate opposed the $40 billion in aid. An earlier package of $13.6 billion in aid was attached to a government funding bill by Democratic leaders in both chambers. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said in a statement she supported the funding for both national security and humanitarian reasons.

“We need to do everything we can to stop Russia’s brutal war crimes and unprovoked assault on a peaceful democratic nation,” Murray said. “I want my constituents in Washington state with family or loved ones in Ukraine to know that this legislation will also get critical resources to support refugees. We have a moral obligation to protect human rights and it’s good that this legislation will help us follow through on that obligation in Ukraine.”

The bill’s passage came as Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the U.S. was shipping another $100 million of weapons and equipment to Ukraine. The new legislation includes about $24 billion for arming the Ukrainian military, replacing U.S. materiel already sent to the Ukrainian government to cover the cost of stationing U.S. forces in the region.

Other funding includes $9 billion for nonmilitary support to Ukraine’s government and $5 billion for food aid to countries facing the threat of famine due to decreased crop yields from Ukraine. Biden, who left Washington in the afternoon for a trip to South Korea and Japan, is expected to sign the bill promptly.