'Nearly out of time': White House issues dire warning to Congress about stalled Ukraine aid

The U.S. is "out of money -- and nearly out of time," the OMB director said.

December 4, 2023, 4:45 PM

The White House on Monday issued a dire warning about the urgent need to approve aid to Ukraine in its war with Russia, saying failure to act quickly will "kneecap Ukraine on the battlefield."

In a letter to congressional leaders, Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young said flat out the U.S. is "out of money -- and nearly out of time" to send assistance to Ukraine.

"I want to be clear: without congressional action, by the end of the year we will run out of resources to procure more weapons and equipment for Ukraine and to provide equipment from U.S. military stocks," Young wrote. "There is no magical pot of funding available to meet this moment. We are out of money -- and nearly out of time."

President Joe Biden has requested a $106 billion package for Ukraine and Israel in their respective wars as well as $14 billion for border security. Yet his proposal has stalled in Congress.

While White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby last week said "the runway is getting shorter" for U.S. aid for Ukraine, the new White House language dramatically ramps up the pressure to get Ukraine funding approved as the end of the year approaches.

PHOTO: Shalanda Young, director of the Office Of Management and Budget (OMB), during a news conference in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, DC,  Sept. 29, 2023.
Shalanda Young, director of the Office Of Management and Budget (OMB), during a news conference in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, DC, Sept. 29, 2023.
Nathan Howard/Sipa/Bloomberg via Getty Images, FILE

"We are out of money to support Ukraine in this fight. This isn't a next year problem. The time to help a democratic Ukraine fight against Russian aggression is right now. It is time for Congress to act," Young wrote.

A halt in assistance will cause significant issues for Ukraine -- and potentially benefit Russia, Young said.

"Cutting off the flow of U.S. weapons and equipment will kneecap Ukraine on the battlefield, not only putting at risk the gains Ukraine has made, but increasing the likelihood of Russian military victories," she wrote.

Young also stressed that U.S. funding for Ukraine is going beyond the battlefield. She writes that $27.2 billion has been used for economic assistance and civilian security assistance.

"If Ukraine's economy collapses, they will not be able to keep fighting, full stop. Putin understands this well, which is why Russia has made destroying Ukraine's economy central to its strategy -- which you can see in its attacks against Ukraine's grain exports and energy infrastructure."

Young also makes the case that approving this funding for Ukraine will have an economic impact in the U.S., directing over "$50 billion in our nation's [Defense Industrial Base] which builds on the funding that has already been invested in manufacturing lines across 35 states."

What's the holdup in Congress?

It's been almost a year since Congress passed additional aid to Ukraine, and lawmakers have been working to try to get a deal that will deliver funds before the year's end. But negotiations have been plagued by a number of disagreements between Democrats and Republicans about how to best move forward on an aid package, and about what ought to be included in it.

Since returning after Thanksgiving, senators have been trying to find a way to advance a package that would deliver aid Ukraine while also funding a number of additional national security priorities, including Taiwan and Israel, as well as funds to the southern border.

Biden's proposed aid package, which would fund all of these priorities, could hit the Senate floor as soon as this week. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has not ruled out trying to advance the package in the coming days.

But Senate Republicans have vowed that if Schumer tries to move forward with the administration's ask, they'll deny it the 60 votes it needs to move forward unless they secure some major policy wins about security at the southern border.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks at a Senate caucus leadership press conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Nov. 28, 2023.
Michael Brochstein/Sopa Images via Shutterstock

Democrats have been trying for several weeks to find a way to appease Republican demands for border policy wins that could also pass muster in the Democratic-controlled Senate, but negotiations continue to be hung up over disagreements on how to effectively modify asylum and parole provisions.

Democrats admonished their GOP colleagues in recent days for conditioning aid to Ukraine on securing border policy changes.

Schumer pointed fingers on Monday afternoon as senators work against the clock to fund Ukraine.

"The hold up on the security supplemental has not been over Ukraine or Israel or the IndoPacific but over the Republican decision to inject hard-right immigration measure over the debate," Schumer said.

In his remarks Monday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell insisted that his negotiators, Sens. James Lankford, Tom Cotton and Lindsey Graham, remain at the table ready to engage, and he lambasted Democrats for what he described as "handwringing" over the border rather than real efforts to meet GOP demands.

"From the White House to the Capitol, Washington Democrats are wasting time with bizarre public scoldings instead of engaging actively in the border security discussions required to complete a viable national security supplemental," McConnell said.

McConnell and House Speaker Mike Johnson are in lockstep in their assertion that without border policy wins, any effort to secure Ukraine aid will falter. And in response to Young's letter to lawmakers Monday, Johnson doubled down.

"The Administration is continually ignoring the catastrophe at our own border," Johnson wrote on X. "House Republicans have resolved that any national security supplemental package must begin with our own border. We believe both issues can be agreed upon if Senate Democrats and the White House will negotiate reasonably."

PHOTO: Republican Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (C) leaves a Republican conference ahead of a vote to expel Republican lawmaker from New York, George Santos in Washington, DC,  Dec. 1, 2023.
Republican Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (C) leaves a Republican conference ahead of a vote to expel Republican lawmaker from New York, George Santos in Washington, DC, Dec. 1, 2023.
Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA via Shutterstock

But while McConnell and Johnson are prepared to toe the line on the border, there's more daylight between the two over how exactly to move such a massive package.

McConnell is a staunch advocate for Ukraine aid and has repeatedly insisted that the best way to move funds for the country is in a multi-pronged package, like the one the Senate is working on, that ties Ukraine aid in with Israel, Taiwan and border funding.

Johnson, however, opposes that approach. He told senators last week he does not believe he has the votes to pass such a massive package, and instead he continues to advocate for breaking the bills into separate pieces for individual consideration.

The Senate has several priorities stacking up as the end of the year approaches. In a chamber where moving bills can sometimes be a cumbersome task, there may not be time to process multiple aid packages.

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