‘The bank account is empty’: WH links COVID, Ukraine funding in ‘urgent’ request

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The White House is reportedly seeking to link domestic COVID spending to Ukraine spending, and in doing so, critics believe they’re trying to make their request for additional funds more palpable to congressional Republicans.

According to the Associated Press, last month the White House submitted a request to Congress asking for $30 billion for the administration’s continued COVID response.

But following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the administration filed a new request this past week to reduce the $30 billion to $22.5 billion and add an additional $10 billion purely for Ukraine, according to the AP.

During a press briefing Friday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki described the $10 billion request as “urgent.”

“[W]e’re requesting $10 billion to deliver additional security assistance for Ukraine, to provide lifesaving humanitarian assistance for the Ukrainian people, and more support for stronger sanctions enforcement, and for U.S troop deployments to reinforce NATO’s eastern flank and deter Russian aggression,” she said.

“This is an urgent priority. I think everybody would agree — Democrats, Republicans, the American people. And it is urgent that we can continue to deliver on our commitment to support the Ukrainian people.”

White House COVID deputy coordinator Natalie Quillian said something similar to the AP, albeit in regard to the COVID funding: “From the COVID side, the bank account is empty. We’re in conversations with lawmakers about how to secure the funding, but it’s urgently needed.”

The addition of $10 billion for Ukraine may inadvertently make the spending more likely to pass.

While congressional Republicans have been mostly opposed to additional COVID spending given that vaccines are readily available and plenty of money from the previous COVID bills reportedly remains untapped, they’ve been as hawkish as their Democrat colleagues in regard to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Sen. Mitt Romney has suggested anyone who doesn’t support helping Ukraine is “almost treasonous.” Former Vice President Mike Pence has said that “there is no room in this party for apologists for Putin.” Sen. Lindsey Graham has called for someone to assassinate Putin.

The examples go on for days.

The so-called “Putin apologists” are presumably critics like Fox News’ Tucker Carlson who’ve argued that the United States needs to stay out of the conflict, lest it trigger a much, much, much larger global conflict.

Carlson has also argued that America is in no position to get involved in a war against Russia over its abuses.

“In a democracy, citizens who rule have an absolute right to have any opinion they want. Period. That freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, is the central freedom we have. It’s the whole point of the country,” he said on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” Monday.

“And there is no point in supporting Ukraine if our leaders ignore our own bill of rights, and we should demand that they respect our Bill of Rights before they take a single step forward in defense of any other democracy. Period,” he asserted.

The Biden administration, which has repeatedly sought to silence domestic dissenters, appears to believe otherwise — that it is worth spending money and resources to protect another democracy. And knowing Republicans, they’ll agree as well.

Though, as noted earlier, they previously were certainly not for more spending.

“Oh no, that’s too much. And secondly, we want to see how much money is out there” that remains untapped,” Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby reportedly said on Thursday about the original request.

Meanwhile, 35 Republicans led by Romney penned a letter to President Joe Biden this week demanding accountability for the original $30 billion in requested funds, as well as the $6 trillion that’s already been spent.

“Recent news reports indicate the Administration is poised to request an additional $30 billion from Congress for its response to COVID-19. While we have supported historic, bipartisan measures in the United States Senate to provide unprecedented investments in vaccines, therapeutics, and testing, it is not yet clear why additional funding is needed,” the Republicans wrote.

“Since March 2020, the federal government has borrowed trillions of dollars to combat the virus and provide relief to families and businesses. By March 11, 2021, the day you signed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act into law, Congress had already approved over $3.8 trillion in COVD-19 relief. All told, the nearly $6 trillion in spending on COVID-19 is the single greatest expenditure of public funds on one effort in the history of the nation,” the letter continued.

They added that the only way they’d “consider supporting” additional spending is if the administration provides “a full accounting” of all the money that’s been spent and that the administration wants to spend.

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