The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation Thursday that would allow President Biden to use a World War II-era law to quickly supply weapons to Ukraine on loan, sending the measure to Biden’s office hours after he urged Congress to approve tens of billions of dollars. Additional emergency aid worth Kyiv dollars.
The 417-10 vote to invoke an extraordinary, eight-decade-old law created to fight Hitler reflects a growing bipartisan sense of urgency in Congress to support the Ukrainian military in the midst of an ugly and protracted artillery war in the south and east of the country. The Senate passed the legislation unanimously this month.
Rep. Jimmy Raskin, D-MD, said, “The passage of this law enabled Great Britain, Winston Churchill, to continue fighting and survive Nazi-fascist bombing until the United States entered the war.” “President Zelensky said Ukraine needs weapons to support itself, and President Biden has responded to that call.”
The legislation invokes the Lend-Lease Act of 1941, originally proposed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to help arm British forces fighting Germany. The legislation allowed the president to lease or loan military equipment to any foreign government “the defense of which the president deems vital to the defense of the United States.”
Roosevelt initially faced skepticism from isolationist members of Congress who were concerned that the bill would plunge the United States squarely into conflict, and worked hard to gain popular support for the measure.
“And so our country will be as our people have declared it to be–the arsenal of democracy,” Roosevelt said after signing the bill into law. By the end of the war, the United States had provided nearly $50 billion in lend-lease aid to Allied countries, according to Library of Congress.
Members of Mr. Biden’s administration have offered few hints about how aggressively they will seek to use the law. John F. Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, demurred on Wednesday when asked about the administration’s view on the measure, saying it would not “get ahead of pending legislation.”
However, it could become an important tool for the White House as the United States looks to mobilize long-term military support for Ukraine, even as flows of Western weapons into the country – including heavy equipment such as howitzers and armed drones – increase.
It would allow the United States to deliver weapons to Ukraine faster by eliminating a variety of procedural obstacles. That would essentially allow the Biden administration to provide huge tranches of weapons to Kyiv, at a time when Mr. Biden has said he has nearly exhausted the emergency military funding approved by Congress in March.
“How we deal with a threat against the sovereignty of a democratic state sends a message about how we act to others, and it watches out adversaries like China,” said Senator John Cornyn, a Texas Republican and one of the original sponsors of the bill. “If we believe that America supports freedom and democracy, we must provide Ukraine with the weapons needed to protect its citizens.”
Mr. Biden on Thursday Congress asked for $33 billion In additional defense, economic and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine. The funding, more than double the size of the $13.6 billion package approved by Congress last month, is expected to last at least five months, according to a US administration official who provided details of the package on condition of anonymity before it was officially released.
Almost half of this figure is expected to finance new military aid.
Emily Cochran Contribute to the preparation of reports.