In the American Congress, aid to Ukraine suffers from an extremis agreement on federal government financing

In the American Congress, aid to Ukraine suffers from an extremis agreement on federal government financing

2023-10-01 04:55:31
The Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, speaks to the media in Washington, September 30, 2023. NATHAN HOWARD / AFP

A ravine avoided, a 45-day respite snatched away, but a Ukraine symbolically abandoned. There are several ways of analyzing the improbable sequence which allowed the American Congress, at the last minute, on Saturday September 30, to prevent a « shutdown », or a paralysis of non-essential activities of the federal government. The relief that dominates among most elected officials is tinged with bitterness. Nothing has been resolved in substance, the psychodrama risks reoccurring in mid-November and parliamentary life appears once again in its least flattering profile.

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At the dawn of the last day before the dreaded deadline, and after having exhausted all other options, Kevin McCarthy, the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, accepted what his radical base refused: a compromise, making it possible to join the Republican and Democratic votes. In the middle of the afternoon, by 335 votes to 91, thus bringing together a large bipartisan majority, the House adopted and transmitted to the Senate a text ensuring the financing of the federal state for 45 more days. Additional funds ($16 billion, approximately 15.1 billion euros) were allocated to respond to natural disasters.

On the other hand, and this is a chilling lesson for kyiv and European capitals, pressure from the Republican base led to the pure and simple abandonment of any new aid package for Ukraine. After further discussions, by 88 votes to nine, the Senate confirmed the compromise in the evening. Nine days earlier, President Volodymyr Zelensky had spent a morning at the Capitol, with representatives and senators from both sides, to plead in favor of an intensification of aid, in the midst of a counter-offensive, in the very name of the American strategic interests. But the weight of an extremist and isolationist minority within the Republican Party, banking on a growing weariness in public opinion with the war, has compromised the bipartisan union expressed since the start of the conflict.

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Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers Volodymyr Zelensky defends the Ukrainian cause in the American Congress, in the midst of a budget crisis

“Putting America First”

On Saturday, the Republicans offered an unexpected gift to Vladimir Putin, confirmed in his prejudices about the vulnerability of liberal democracies. “If we abandon Ukraine, it is a policy change and a decision to turn kyiv into a Russian city and invite China to invade Taiwan”, summarized Democratic Senator Chris Murphy (Connecticut) on X (ex-Twitter). The next six weeks will determine whether this is just a one-off short circuit or deeper damage. “We cannot under any circumstances allow the interruption of American aidwarned Joe Biden in a press release released by the White House in the evening. I expect the speaker to fully honor his commitment to the Ukrainian people and ensure the passage of the aid needed to help Ukraine at this critical time. »

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