White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has gone on the record proclaiming that the Biden administration will not vow to decouple billions of taxpayer dollars going to Ukraine from relief funding for American victims of Hurricane Idalia in Florida and the wildfires in Maui, Hawaii.
During Wednesday's White House press briefing, Jean-Pierre was asked if disaster relief funds should be decoupled from additional aid to Ukraine.
"Look, we see them both as incredibly important," Jean-Pierre replied. "I just laid out at the top what we saw happen in Ukraine: 16 civilians died."
"We — we are going to see the President go to the G20, talking about our commitment for Ukraine and making sure that the people of Ukraine — who are bravely fighting for their sovereignty, for their democracy — has what they need to fight against Russia’s aggression," she continued.
Jean-Pierre said the American aid to Ukraine was "important to help a country continue to fight for their democracy."
She said that President Joe Biden believes that it is "our job" and "duty" to "make sure that Ukraine continues to fight, again, for their sovereignty, for their democracy."
Biden's mouthpiece proclaimed, "We're not going to get into hypotheticals from here about decoupling anything at this time."
She added, "These are vital programs. These are vital, important government programs that need to be done."
The Florida Phoenix reported:
FEMA has projected at least a $4 billion deficit with the disaster relief fund. The Biden administration in August proposed a supplemental package to Congress, including $12 million for disaster relief to pay for recent natural disasters like the fire in Maui and now the aftermath of Hurricane Idalia. But in the same spending package, the president sought more than $24 billion in additional funding for Ukraine’s military needs in their battle against Russia.
While Biden's White House is seemingly hesitant to untie the Ukraine aid to the relief funds of devastating natural disasters in the United States, Florida Republicans are attempting to separate the two causes.
Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) introduced the Federal Disaster Responsibility Act – legislation to decouple American disaster relief from Ukrainian aid. The legislation would provide the Federal Emergency Management Agency's disaster relief fund with $16.5 billion.
"When disaster strikes, families can’t be left wondering whether the federal government is going to show up or if they’ll be strung along while Washington uses them as a bargaining chip in a massive spending bill," Scott said in a statement. "Funding for Ukraine should NEVER be paired with disaster relief for American families. Congress has passed all of the provisions in this bill before, and it needs to do its job and get that done again."
Rubio added, "One of the most basic functions of the U.S. Government is, and should continue to be, to help Americans when disasters hit. Sadly, the Biden Administration intentionally withheld a budget request for the Disaster Relief Fund for months after acknowledging a funding shortfall to leverage it in exchange for unrelated spending."
"Congress must hold the administration accountable for this cynical conduct that has jeopardized disaster response, and must pass this straightforward bill as soon as possible," Rubio concluded.
Illinois Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth declared she would block the proposed legislation, and said it was necessary to tie American disaster relief to Ukraine aid.
"I would [block Scott’s bill]. I think it’s important to include Ukrainian funding," Duckworth told reporters.
Just this week, the Pentagon announced a new $600 million package of long-term aid to Ukraine – including weapons and other equipment for the country's war against Russia.
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Ukraine and pledged to provide the nation with $1 billion in new military and humanitarian aid.
The Council on Foreign Relations estimates the U.S. government has provided Ukraine with $76.8 billion in aid between Jan. 24, 2022, and May 31, 2023. The non-partisan think tank notes that the estimate does not include all U.S. spending on the war between Ukraine and Russia.
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