May 23, 2022

Congress takes weekend break amid calls for immediate aid to Ukraine

As the crisis in Ukraine intensifies, and leaders on both sides of the aisle are calling for swift action on emergency aid for that beleaguered country, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) – together with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-CA) – decided to give legislators the weekend off, as the Washington Times reports.

Despite their typically unified front, not all Democrats were in agreement with the pair’s decision, with Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) expressing their frustration with delays in providing humanitarian assistance for Ukraine.

“We need to pass it today,” said Khanna, adding, “[t]hey need to call us back in, and those who can’t come back can vote remotely, but we’ve got to pass it.”

The California lawmaker continued by stressing the sense of urgency he feels, stating, “Every day, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians are dying. Today, there was a photograph of a father holding the body of his dead teenage son. It’s horrific. The least we can do is provide them with a fighting chance with weapons.”

With Russian forces continuing their assaults on cities across Ukraine, that country’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has indicated that unless a substantial influx of humanitarian assistance and weaponry from abroad, collapse could occur in the near future.

Zelenskyy has also requested help from the West in establishing a no-fly zone over Ukraine, and while President Joe Biden has not agreed to assist in that regard, the White House has formally asked that Congress approve $10 billion in economic, security, and humanitarian aid for the besieged country, as The Hill noted.

According to administration officials, that initial aid amount is designed to address short-term, immediate needs prompted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with Office of Management and Budget acting Director Shalanda Young telling Pelosi in a letter this week that she expects “that additional needs may arise over time.”

Given that the House and Senate will not be conducting business this weekend, nothing in the way of aid will be passed until next week at the earliest, with Pelosi suggesting that it should be included in a yearlong budget package that must be passed by March 11.

Despite arguments from legislators on both sides of the aisle that a faster, stand-alone aid authorization is needed, it appears that Pelosi and Schumer are not convinced, and whether expedited action on bipartisan demands for a rapid dispatch of assistance will occur next week, only time will tell.

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