Top White House budget official warns of a 'dire' situation regarding aid to Ukraine

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden's top budget official warned in stark terms Friday about the rapidly dwindling time lawmakers have to replenish U.S. aid to Ukraine, as the fate of that money for Kiev remains embroiled in immigration negotiations, where a deal has yet to materialize has not been successful so far. range.

Shalanda Young, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, emphasized that there is no way to help Ukraine other than for Congress to approve additional funding to help Kiev as it fends off Russia in a war now nearly two years old. While the Pentagon has limited authority to help Kiev divert new funding from Capitol Hill, “that will not bring large tranches of equipment to Ukraine,” Young said Friday.

While the administration still has the authority to take weapons from existing U.S. stockpiles and quickly send them to Ukraine, officials have decided to waive that authority because Congress has not approved additional money to actually replenish that equipment — a move that Young said was a “very difficult decision.” The US sent a $250 million arms package to Ukraine late last month, which officials said was likely the last package due to the lack of funding.

Young also described the impact a lack of additional U.S. aid would have on Ukraine beyond its military capabilities, such as the fact that Kiev could pay its officials to ensure its government can continue to function amid the barrage of Russia.

“Yes, Kiev may get some time from other donors to ensure that they can maintain their war base and maintain the civil service, but what happens in the (European Union), among other NATO allies, if the US withdraws its support ? Young said this Friday during a breakfast with journalists hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. “I am very concerned that Kiev needs more than just the resources of the United States to stop Putin. It's: what message does that send to the rest of the world? And what will their decisions be if they see that the United States does not show up?”

Young, a veteran congressional budget staffer, added that the situation was “dire” and that “we have certainly exceeded my comfort level” in the time that has passed since Congress greenlighted new funding for Ukraine. Biden requested a smaller tranche of new aid to Ukraine in September, but went to Congress in late October with a sweeping national security spending request that included about $60 billion in new funding for Ukraine.

That demand from Biden also included about $14 billion to manage and care for the large number of migrants who continue to arrive at the southern border, and the president has said he is willing to negotiate with Republicans to accept some policy changes that would impact asylum policy would tighten up. other migration laws — a key demand of GOP lawmakers.

Complicating the dynamic further is that Washington faces a pair of deadlines — the first on Jan. 19, the second on Feb. 2 — to fund the federal government or risk a shutdown at the start of a presidential election year. Key lawmakers have yet to reach topline spending figures for each federal agency, a necessary step before the broader bills to fund the government can even be written.

Young said she is not yet pessimistic, but that she is “not optimistic” about the prospects of avoiding a shutdown in the coming weeks because of stark new warnings from Republicans in the House of Representatives, dozens of whom joined together this week traveled to the border with Chairman Mike Johnson. , that they were willing to shut down the government if they didn't get enough concessions on the White House's border policies.

“This week's rhetoric concerns me that this is the path Republicans in the House of Representatives are taking, even though I will say that I believe the leadership is working in good faith to prevent a shutdown,” Young said .

Asked whether the emergency spending request with Ukraine must be approved first before passing legislation to fund the government, Young added: “I will accept it however they can approve it. I mean, beggars shouldn't have to choose. And I'll see how they can pass it on. It just needs to be passed on.”