Biden says US aid to Ukraine must continue and tells Congress to ‘stop playing games’

President Joe Biden has warned Congress to “stop playing games” and keep American aid flowing to Ukraine after spending on the war-hit nation was axed from the 11th-hour stopgap bill passed by the US Senate.

“We cannot under any circumstances allow America’s support for Ukraine to be interrupted,” the president said in remarks from the Roosevelt Room on Sunday.

“We have time, not much time, and there’s an overwhelming sense of urgency,” he said, noting that the stopgap funding bill lasts only until mid-November.

Congress narrowly escaped a government shutdown by passing a short-term funding package late on Saturday but only after it dropped additional assistance for Ukraine in its battle against Russia.

Mr Biden signed the bill into law moments later, but is urging Congress to negotiate an aid package as soon as possible.

“The vast majority of both parties – Democrats and Republicans, Senate and House – support helping Ukraine and the brutal aggression that is being thrust upon them by Russia,” Mr Biden said. “Stop playing games, get this done.”

Washington is currently at a rare crossroads situation as Republican resistance to aid to Ukraine is gaining momentum.

After Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer began a process to potentially consider legislation providing additional aid to Ukraine, House Speaker and Republican leader Kevin McCarthy faced an uphill task in keeping this commitment over the objections of nearly half of his GOP majority.

He has said that his priority was security at the US-Mexico border while he supported “being able to make sure Ukraine has the weapons they need”.

“I firmly support the border first. So we’ve got to find a way that we can do this together,” he told CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday.

Joe Biden urges Congress to continue aid to Ukraine (Getty Images)
Joe Biden urges Congress to continue aid to Ukraine (Getty Images)

Mr McCarthy halted immediate aid clearance for Kyiv in a bid to avoid the shutdown but this cost the White House a Senate package that would have offered $6bn to Ukraine in an additional tranche.

Both the House and Senate overwhelmingly approved the stopgap measure, with members of both parties abandoning the increased aid in favour of avoiding a costly government shutdown.

However, Mr Biden is now working to reassure US allies that there will be more funds for Ukraine.

“Look at me,” he said, turning his face to the cameras Sunday’s briefing at the White House.

“We’re going to get it done. I can’t believe those who voted for supporting Ukraine – overwhelming majority in the House and Senate, Democrat and Republican – will for pure political reasons let more people die needlessly in Ukraine.”

Ukrainian officials are also seeking to downplay the potential threat of the stopgap bill, with top diplomat Dmytro Kuleba insisting that Washington’s support for Kyiv is not weakening.

Mr Kuleba told reporters on Monday that Kyiv is currently in talks with both Republicans and Democrats and that the drama around the stopgap bill was merely an “incident” rather than something systemic.

“We don’t feel that the US support has been shattered ... because the United States understands that what is at stake in Ukraine is much bigger than just Ukraine,” the foreign minister said as he greeted European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell before a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Kyiv.

“It’s about the stability and predictability of the world and therefore I believe we will be able to find necessary solutions.”

(With additional reporting by agencies)