NATIONAL NEWS

Biden wants people to know most of the money he’s seeking for Ukraine would be spent in the US

Feb 20, 2024, 7:01 AM | Updated: 3:56 pm

Construction continues at a building complex in Mesquite, Texas, Friday, Feb. 16, 2024. As Presiden...

Construction continues at a building complex in Mesquite, Texas, Friday, Feb. 16, 2024. As President Joe Biden pushes House Republicans to pass needed aid for Ukraine, he wants voters to understand that nearly $40 billion would actually be going to U.S. factories that make missiles, munitions and other gear. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

MESQUITE, Texas (AP) — At a bustling construction site outside of Dallas, there are hopes that Congress can finally pass nearly $95 billion in foreign aid including funding for Ukraine — because factory jobs in the United States depend on that money.

Aerospace and defense company General Dynamics’ new factory in the Dallas suburb of Mesquite is expected to initially employ 150 people to produce munitions. Set to open in June, construction is nearing completion, with newly planted trees and shrubs already in place at the complex overlooking one of the area’s busiest interstates.

“We want to increase our wages and increase our skill levels and job opportunities,” said Kim Buttram, Mesquite’s director of economic development, who added that the factory is expected to have over 300 jobs when it’s at full production.

As President Joe Biden pushes House Republicans to pass needed aid, he wants voters to understand that nearly two-thirds — or nearly $40 billion — of the money for Ukraine would actually go to U.S. factories spread out across the country including plants in Lima, Ohio and Scranton, Pennsylvania as well as Mesquite.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., has refused to put the bill up for a vote on the House floor on the premise that it does not meet the needs of the American public.

The supplemental spending measure contains a total of $95 billion in foreign aid, including money for Ukraine, Israel and other countries. Of the $60.7 billion for Ukraine, $38.8 billion would go to U.S. factories that make missiles, munitions and other gear, according to figures provided to The Associated Press by the Biden administration.

“While this bill sends military equipment to Ukraine,” Biden said Tuesday, “it spends the money right here in the United States of America in places like Arizona, where the Patriot missiles are built; and Alabama, where the Javelin missiles are built; and Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Texas, where artillery shells are made.”

The president’s argument challenges criticism by some Republican lawmakers that the federal government should be spending more money at home instead of supporting overseas wars.

In this case, most of the money goes to U.S. companies and workers, funding assembly lines to refill depleted stockpiles of weapons and gear that have already gone to Ukraine.

The Democratic president is openly channeling Franklin Delano Roosevelt and resurrecting the World War II-era concept that America is the “arsenal of democracy.” His sales pitch to the public is that his foreign policy is also about jobs for the U.S. middle class.

But Biden is brushing up against opposition from former President Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner who ascended to the White House in 2016 on the promise of reviving U.S. manufacturing.

Trump opposes the U.S. package to help Ukraine and has openly expressed a willingness to let Russia invade NATO allies who do not spend enough of their own budgets on defense.

Many Republicans in Congress have taken their lead from Trump, with the party’s right flank increasingly questioning the value of U.S. interventions around the world and long-standing alliances built in the aftermath of World War II.

Johnson has refused to bring the foreign aid bill up for a vote because it also lacks provisions to secure the U.S. southern border where immigrants are crossing illegally. But he previously rejected a bipartisan Senate bill that did provide funding to address immigration challenges, saying that the border measures would not solve the problem in the way that he wanted.

“The Republican-led House will not be jammed or forced into passing a foreign aid bill that was opposed by most Republican senators,” Johnson said at a news conference last week. “It’s time for Washington to start showing some love to Americans.”

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, in contrast, has repeatedly implored his colleagues to understand that the funds from the package are for historic investments “right here in America.”

“This is about rebuilding the arsenal of democracy,” McConnell, R-Kentucky, said in a floor speech during the long days of debate, “and demonstrating to our allies and adversaries alike that we’re serious about exercising American strength.”

The Mesquite factory sits in the congressional district of Rep. Lance Gooden, R-Texas, who told Fox Business News in a December interview that he couldn’t tell his constituents that he voted for money for Ukraine without also getting money to secure the U.S. southern border.

“I will never support any funding for Ukraine that does not include major measures of security at our own southern border,” said Gooden. His office did not respond to questions sent over email from The Associated Press for this story.

U.S. factories shipped out nearly $162 billion worth of military goods last year, according to the Census Bureau. The shipments increased 8.1% compared to 2022. The supplemental funding could further drive factory production upward this year.

But defense manufacturing can be volatile. Spending declined between 2010 and 2015. It then grew over the next four years, only to dip in 2021 and then climb again after Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022.

The Biden administration has made an increase in the manufacturing capacity of defense contractors a priority, with a plan to increase the production of 155-millimeter artillery shells six-fold over three years.

The supplemental bill stalled in the House would expand these efforts by making new investments in production lines for weapons and revitalizing the industrial base for submarine production, according to the White House.

But on Friday, after news of the death of imprisoned Russian dissident Alexei Navalny, Biden again pushed House Republicans to pass aid to Ukraine and take a stand against Russian leader Vladimir Putin. But the House had gone into recess on Thursday afternoon.

“It’s about time they step up — don’t you think? — instead of going on a two-week vacation,” Biden said. “What are they thinking? My God, this is bizarre.”

___

AP chief congressional correspondent Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report. Boak reported from Washington.

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Biden wants people to know most of the money he’s seeking for Ukraine would be spent in the US