WASHINGTON -- The U.S. will be unable to continue providing more weapons and equipment to Ukraine if Congress doesn't approve additional funding by the end of the year, the White House said, trying to prod lawmakers to quickly make progress in complicated negotiations on Capitol Hill.
"Cutting off the flow of U.S. weapons and equipment will kneecap Ukraine on the battlefield," Shalanda Young, the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, wrote in a letter to House Speaker Mike Johnson (R., La.). "There is no magical pot of funding available to meet this moment. We are out of money -- and nearly out of time," Young wrote.
The letter was released as negotiators are trying to reach a deal on tightening U.S. border security, which House and Senate Republicans have demanded as a condition for passing tens of billions of dollars in new aid for Ukraine. Over the weekend, bipartisan Senate talks to strike an immigration compromise broke down, with Democrats complaining that Republicans were insisting on sweeping changes to the asylum system they knew Democrats wouldn't support.
The letter marks one of the White House's most forceful pleas for congressional action to date.
Without additional money, the U.S. won't have the necessary resources to procure additional weapons and equipment for Ukraine or to provide resources from existing U.S. military stockpiles, Young said. Officials in the U.S. and Europe are increasingly worried as the war in Ukraine nears the end of its second year, fearing that Russian President Vladimir Putin will be able to outlast the political will of Western countries to continue aiding Ukraine.
President Biden in October outlined a $106 billion proposed aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. The package requested about $60 billion to fund the Ukraine war effort and replenish U.S. weapons stocks.
Congress is debating how to proceed, with Republicans calling for more border security measures and changes in immigration policy in exchange for approving the additional money. A possible vote on such a measure could come this week in the Senate, even as talks between Democratic and Republican negotiators were at a standstill.
If any Senate deal is reached, the spotlight would then shift to Johnson, who has publicly and repeatedly called Ukraine aid a critical priority for the House in recent weeks, despite voting against additional security assistance for Kyiv earlier this year before he became speaker.
Johnson responded to the White House letter by saying that "any national security supplemental package must begin with our own border. We believe both issues can be agreed upon if Senate Democrats and the White House will negotiate reasonably."
Congress has approved more than $100 billion to help Kyiv since Russia invaded. House Republicans have faced growing pressure to reject further aid, as voters in their congressional districts have soured on the effort.
Johnson has warned Senate Republicans that the House GOP can't pass a large aid package that combines funds for the border, Ukraine and Israel, the approach sought by Biden and favored by Senate leaders. He told the senators he wants to break up the package and vote on Ukraine aid and border policy separately from Israel aid.
Last week, Senate negotiators had appeared to reach an initial deal on one major change to the asylum system -- tightening the initial screening standard migrants must clear when applying for asylum. But in interviews, Republican senators said the change wasn't enough.
Privately, Republicans pushed to include mandatory immigration detention for all asylum seekers, including children, and proposed creating more detention spaces by using domestic military bases, according to two people familiar with the talks. They also insisted on significantly curtailing an immigration authority known as humanitarian parole, which the Biden administration has been using to quickly let in refugees from the Ukraine war as well as some asylum seekers at the border who apply ahead of time.
"So far, the proposals Republicans have put on the table would get no Democratic votes," said Sen. Chris Murphy (D., Conn.).
Sen. John Thune (R., S.D.), No. 2 in GOP leadership, said Republicans were preparing a new proposal late Monday and emphasized that any deal would need to significantly slow the influx of migrants to the U.S. "Right now everything's in flux and moving," he said.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) late Monday set up a procedural vote for Wednesday on a Ukraine package. The Senate will hold a closed-door classified briefing on the proposal on Tuesday. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been invited to speak via secure video, Schumer said.
Federal agencies have spent all or nearly all of the supplemental funding approved by Congress to support Ukraine. As of mid-November, the Defense Department had used 97% of the money it received and the State Department had spent 100% of the military assistance-related funding it received, according to the letter. Other pots of aid are similarly depleted.
Pentagon officials said they had issued contracts for all of the $10.5 billion in available funds for new weapons for Ukraine, and have only a little left to replenish U.S. stocks after spending $16.8 billion on missile defense systems, artillery shells, tanks and other equipment.
"It's fumes," said Pentagon acquisition chief Bill LaPlante when asked what was left for Ukraine. LaPlante, speaking on the sidelines of the Reagan National Defense Forum in Southern California, said there were already standing requests for further Ukraine support amounting to four times more than the available funding.
Young used Monday's letter to make the case to skeptical Republicans in Congress that funding will offer direct benefits to the U.S. by boosting the American defense industry. Sixty percent of the money that has been approved so far by Congress has supported the U.S. defense industrial base or boosted Defense Department and intelligence operations, she wrote.
Biden's $106 billion supplemental request includes almost $45 billion earmarked for weapons for Ukraine and to replenish U.S. stocks sent to the battlefield. Another $3.6 billion would help boost production of weapons such as artillery shells, an expansion that the Pentagon said would be under threat if the request isn't approved.
The U.S. plans to raise monthly shell production to 100,000 by the end of 2025 from around 30,000 now, but a third of the increase depends on securing supplemental funding, said LaPlante.
Defense companies such as Lockheed Martin and RTX are boosting output of shells, missiles and defensive weapons under existing contracts that will continue supplies to Ukraine over the next two years. These need to be urgently topped up, said U.S. officials.
The funding challenges in the U.S. come at a time when European countries are also struggling to secure fresh aid for Ukraine.
European Union leaders until recently had expected to agree on giving Ukraine EUR50 billion, equivalent to around $54 billion, in emergency budget support for the next four years at a coming EU summit, and the bloc was considering additional military support for Kyiv. However, that assistance is now in doubt because of opposition from Hungary and budget problems in Berlin.
Agreement on the package now appears likely to face a delay, or EU leaders at the summit next week will agree to repeat next year the EUR18 billion in funding provided to Ukraine this year, paid for by borrowing from markets. No military assistance package is likely to be agreed before year-end.