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Pentagon: Congress must pass $40 billion Ukraine aid bill by Thursday

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby

The Pentagon said that Congress must pass a pending $40 billion Ukraine aid package by Thursday to avoid interrupting US weapons shipments to the Kiev government in its war with Russia.

“May 19 is the day we really — without additional authorities — we begin to not have the ability to send new stuff in,” press secretary John Kirby told reporters on Friday. “It’ll start impacting our ability to provide aid uninterrupted.”

“This is the Pentagon lobbying Congress for money via the media,” said New York-based journalist Don DeBar.

“I suspect that it's actually illegal, but it certainly is frightening to consider. How, for example, can members of Congress address this funding request on the merits when they risk being labeled ‘Russian dupes’ at a minimum or traitors or worse?” he asked.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have already sent a letter to House and Senate leadership asking for the money by the end of next week “if we are to continue are security assistance at the current pace.”

On Monday, the Pentagon said the $3.5 billion in drawdown authority will be exhausted later this month.

Kirby said that about $100 million is still left from that pot of money and has not yet been allocated.

The US House Tuesday passed the package, sending the bill to the Senate for a vote. On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell took to the Senate floor to press for swift passage of the legislation but their effort was stymied by Republican Senator Rand Paul.

Senator Paul is demanding that the bill be changed to require an inspector general to oversee how Ukraine's military aid is spent.

Kirby said the Pentagon asked the Senate “to act as quickly as possible so we don’t get to the end of May and not have any additional authorities to draw back, to draw upon.”

“If we don’t get those authorities soon … it’s possible that there could be a bubble — a period of time in which, you know, there’s just nothing moving and we want to make sure we avoid that,” he said.

Two weeks ago, US President Joe Biden asked Congress for a whopping $33 billion aid package for Ukraine, including more than $20 billion in new military aid and other security assistance over the next five months to use in the regime's war with Russia.

The supplemental funding request includes $16.4 billion for the Defense Department, $8.5 billion in economic assistance, and $3 billion for humanitarian assistance and to fight food insecurity, according to reports.

The new package includes $6 billion for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative and $5.4 billion to replenish military inventories of weapons and equipment sent to the front lines.

On Monday, however, Congressional leaders agreed to release $6.8 billion more than the $33 billion requested by the White House.

The US has already delivered $2.4 billion in military assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of Biden’s term in office, though much of that aid has come since Russia’s military operation against Ukraine began in late February.

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