COMPASS: Congress prepares Ukraine supplemental spending bill

February 28th, 2022

Good afternoon from Capitol Hill. The House and Senate are back in session this week and, to put it mildly, there is a lot going on. I’m going to try to hit the high points.

First up, Ukraine. While things are rapidly changing and fluid on the ground, Washington is gearing up its response. On Thursday, the Pentagon announced it would send another 7,000 U.S. troops into Europe to bolster NATO defenses in the event Russia’s attack spreads beyond Ukraine. 7,000 U.S. troops were already deployed or repositioned in Europe earlier this month. 12,000 additional American troops are now on alert status following Friday’s announcement that NATO’s Response Force has been activated for the first time.

Biden has said U.S. troops will not fight within Ukraine, as the country is not a NATO member. Sen. Mike Lee reminded the White House last week that Congress must authorize any use of our armed forces in military conflict.

In addition, the Pentagon is looking for ways to bolster Ukraine with both lethal and nonlethal aid, which will join the roughly $1 billion in security assistance the U.S. has provided over the last year, $350 million of which was announced by Secretary of State Tony Blinken on Saturday. According to Blinken the U.S. will also provide an additional $54 million in humanitarian aid.

Meanwhile, the White House is asking Congress to approve $6.4 billion in additional funding for Ukraine, which includes $2.9 billion for the State Department and USAID, and covers humanitarian assistance to Ukraine, Poland, and Baltic states on NATO’s eastern flank. The request also includes $3.5 billion in additional funding for the Pentagon.

For its part, Congress appears interested in pursuing a defense supplemental, meeting or exceeding the White House request. Presumably the funding would be attached to the forthcoming omnibus spending bill which, in addition to funding the government, already includes further COVID assistance money and House Republican earmarks. That package has a deadline of March 11, unless Congress passes an extension.

On a different note, the Senate is now officially in advice and consent mode with President Biden’s announcement that he is nominating D.C. Court of Appeals Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court as Justice Stephen Breyer’s replacement. Jackson is a former clerk to Justice Breyer, and was confirmed to the D.C. Court of Appeals last year. Conservatives have been quick to point out her record of radical activism from the bench. See statements from First Liberty, the Heritage Foundation, and the American Accountability Foundation.

The corporate media continues to cover itself in glory in coverage of this nomination. ABC News recently tried and miserably failed to label as “similar” the remarkably different backgrounds of Judge Jackson and Justice Clarence Thomas. Read this Twitter thread debunking the narrative from former Trump OMB General Counsel Mark Paoletta. Paoletta also recently defended both Justice Thomas and his wife Ginni from a media barrage seeking to discredit Justice Thomas over his wife’s career in conservative activism.

Finally, Joe Biden will give his State of the Union address on Tuesday evening. Conveniently, the mask mandate in the Capitol was lifted on Sunday, and masks for SOTU attendees declared “optional.” COVID mysteriously appears to be ending all over the country. The CDC issued a statement on Friday declaring that 70 percent of the country doesn’t need to be wearing masks anymore. And even in the People’s Republic of New York (including in New York City), mask mandates are dropping.

Could this all be political? Hm, I can’t say. But I will just point to this most recent poll showing Biden with his lowest ever approval rating of 37 percent, with a 30 percent rating among independents. Registered independents prefer a Republican for Congress to a Democrat by 14 points. And the GOP has an almost 20-point lead on the economy.

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One More Thing…

ICYMI, Donald Trump spoke at CPAC this weekend (where he won the straw poll). You can watch his speech here.