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Biden administration asks Congress for $32.5 billion for COVID and Ukraine

Russia ramps up assault on key Ukrainian cities
Russia ramps up assault on key Ukrainian cities 02:59

Washington — The Biden administration is asking Congress to add at least $10 billion in new spending for humanitarian assistance and military operations related to Ukraine — a sharp uptick in requested spending from just a few days ago.

Two people familiar with the request confirmed the figures to CBS News. The new spending is part of a broader ask that includes a $22.5 billion request for spending related to the COVID-19 pandemic and work to prepare for future pandemics. 

Shalanda Young, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, made the formal request for supplemental funding for "critical assistance" to Ukraine and the response to COVID-19 in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent late Wednesday.

"Given the rapidly evolving situation in Ukraine, I anticipate that additional needs may arise over time," Young warned lawmakers in the letter. She added that the current request is based on "the administration's best information on resource requirements at this time" — in other words, Congress should expect the need to pay more to support the Ukrainian people. 

On pandemic spending, Young added that the Biden administration's new national COVID-19 preparedness plan will likely need more money "to help America move forward safely and get us back to our more normal routines."

Of the $10 billion the Biden administration is seeking in assistance for Ukraine, $4.8 billion would go to the Defense Department to support U.S. troop deployments to neighboring countries in support of NATO efforts and provide more military equipment to Ukraine. 

The request also includes $5 billion for the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development to boost security and economic assistance to Ukraine and regional allies, of which $2.75 billion would provide humanitarian assistance.

The new requested spending on the pandemic and national security could be added to a sweeping annual spending bill under consideration on Capitol Hill. The current short-term spending agreement expires March 11, but it's unclear if negotiators will include this fresh request as part of the bigger spending plan or in separate legislation. 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters Tuesday that lawmakers involved in talks over the larger spending bill have hit a "snag" over Ukraine assistance. On Wednesday, three dozen Republican senators sent a letter to the White House asking why additional funding for the COVID-19 response is needed.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, though, said the annual spending bill is the "quickest and most efficient way to" approve the aid to Ukraine.

"Nothing would make Putin happier than having Democrats and Republicans divided," he said Tuesday.

Senate Republicans have asked the White House for details of how the money already approved by Congress for COVID-19 relief has been spent. Sources familiar with the new request noted that more than 90% of the available funds from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan have been committed and nearly all money from the package for the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) COVID-19 response have been used.

Additionally, of the HHS response money that has been used, more than 90% was to buy vaccines and therapeutics, vaccine distribution efforts, research to improve surveillance and countermeasures, increasing the supply of personal protective equipment and hospital infection control.

The sources warned that without more resources, the Biden administration will not be able to secure treatments, vaccines and tests, and pandemic response efforts will end in the spring.

Spending needs for Ukraine have ballooned significantly now that the Russian invasion is underway. Last Friday, the White House confirmed it needed at least $6.4 billion to pay for humanitarian, intelligence, and military assistance related to buoying Ukraine, but cautioned the figure could change.

The U.S. has provided more than $1.4 billion in assistance to Ukraine since 2021.

President Biden pledged during his State of the Union address Tuesday that the U.S. "will continue to aid the Ukrainian people as they defend their country and to help ease their suffering."

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