Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Wednesday that votes on legislation to provide the embattled Ukrainians with billions of dollars in additional aid to fend off Russian forces could take place as soon as next week.
The Biden administration has already provided Ukraine with more than $13 billion in assistance, and the president late last month asked Congress for an additional $33 billion.
Although the House is on recess this week, Pelosi said bipartisan negotiators are busy drafting President Biden’s request, which she expects to pass with broad support from both parties when Congress returns to Washington.
“We’re writing the bill now, and hopefully we will be able to vote on it next week,” Pelosi said during a press briefing in Washington state, where she’s campaigning with several Democratic lawmakers.
The Speaker allowed that timeline might slip. “Legislation takes a little time,” she said.
Senate Democratic leaders have floated the idea of attaching the Ukraine funding to another Biden request: a proposal providing billions of dollars in COVID-19 relief. Pelosi you have endorsed that strategybut it has received a cold reception from Republicans, raising questions about whether Democrats will abandon the package approach and vote separately on the more popular Ukraine aid for purposes of expediency.
The Speaker did not address those tactical questions on Wednesday.
Pelosi is freshly back from a surprise visit to Kyivwhere she and six other prominent Democrats met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has urged the US and other Western allies to step up efforts to help his country defend itself from the Russian invasion, which has increasingly taken aim at civilian targets.
The bulk of Biden’s $33 billion request would go toward providing Ukrainian forces with more weapons and ammunition. The White House is also proposing to direct $8.5 billion of the package to direct economic assistance and another $3 billion to humanitarian aid, including food supplies.
“The cost of this fight is not cheap,” Biden said in making the request.
Pelosi on Wednesday echoed that message, framing the conflict as a proxy battle in which Ukraine is fighting on behalf of democracies across the globe.
“The fact is democracy is at stake. Our national security is affected by this. And the leadership role that we play in the world is one that is essential to the essence of who we are,” she said. “Can we afford it? We can’t afford not to do it.”
Pelosi pointed out that public opinion polls reveal strong bipartisan support for providing aid to Ukraine and, she added, “by the same numbers that we should not go in,” emphasizing the concern for confronting Russia too aggressively.
“They’re fighting the fight for all of us,” she said.
Pelosi said Congress’s continued role in the conflict will focus on three areas: tougher sanctions on Russia, more weapons for Ukrainian fighters and more humanitarian aid for embattled civilians, millions of whom have either fled the country or been displaced from their homes.
“They need food. They need water. They need so many things,” Pelosi said.
The Speaker also praised Zelensky, characterizing him as “a hero to the world,” and denounced Russian President Vladimir Putin in the strongest terms, saying his decision to target women and children is “a barometer of the cruelty and cowardice” of Moscow’s leaders.
“If you want to fight a fight, fight a fight,” she said. “But don’t go after the civilians.”