2nd October 2023 – (Hong Kong) President Joe Biden signed a stopgap funding bill just minutes before the deadline on Saturday, ensuring that the government remains operational for the next 45 days. The move followed a chaotic 24 hours in Washington, which placed aid for Ukraine, a top priority for the White House, in serious jeopardy.
The Biden administration, like others in the capital, was taken by surprise when Speaker Kevin McCarthy unexpectedly announced that he would bring a clean, stopgap bill to fund the government until 17th November, 2023. While aides were not entirely surprised by the turn of events, they had anticipated that the government shutdown showdown would eventually lead to this outcome. The main question was whether McCarthy would make his move before or after the funding deadline.
The outcome was not displeasing to the White House. The bill not only provided funding for the government but also included $16 billion in disaster relief. A White House official noted that the bill avoided any deep cuts to essential domestic programs that had been proposed in recent days.
However, the bill did not include aid for Ukraine, which was a blow for both President Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Zelensky had recently met with President Biden and lawmakers to advocate for additional funds to support Ukraine’s defence against Moscow.
The administration downplayed the exclusion of Ukraine aid, stating that Speaker McCarthy had expressed his support for it. They expected McCarthy to bring a separate bill to the floor in the near future. President Biden also expressed his expectation that there would be another attempt to pass Ukraine aid soon.
It remains unclear whether McCarthy will follow through on his commitment to Ukraine aid. The view from the White House is that including it in a government funding bill could spark a backlash within his party. However, pushing it as a separate matter might be a possibility.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer assured that funding for Ukraine aid remains a priority and that they will continue to fight for it. There is some Republican support for Ukraine aid, particularly in the Senate, but the House GOP has been less forthcoming. McCarthy’s office did not respond to requests for comment on including Ukraine aid in the stopgap bill.
As the bill heads to the Senate floor, there are expectations that a Ukraine-related vote will take place next week due to the strong support for it in the Senate. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries called on House Republicans to stand up for freedom, democracy, and the Ukrainian people.
Although there were concerns about the specific components of the bill, such as a cost-of-living adjustment for congressional salaries, there were no visible obstacles that would prevent its passage. The White House maintained its distance from the whip count operation, as President Biden had already brokered a funding deal with Speaker McCarthy earlier in the year.
The Biden administration did not issue a formal Statement of Administration Policy due to time constraints, but their silence suggested that they did not oppose the bill. Ultimately, over 200 House Democrats supported the measure.