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White House plans one more Ukraine aid package, then up to Congress

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden is planning one more military aid package in December for Ukraine in its war against Russia, the White House said on Monday, then further assistance to Kyiv will require an agreement in Congress where prospects for a deal were uncertain.

“When that one’s done … we will have no more replenishment authority available to us and we’re going to need Congress to act without delay,” White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said.

The White House has warned that U.S. aid will run out by the year’s end for Ukraine’s fight to retake territory occupied by Russian forces since it invaded in February 2022.

Talks continued on Monday in the Senate, where Democrats have a slim majority, on a deal that would include aid for Ukraine and Israel as well as new measures to improve security at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Republicans have insisted that improved border security be part of any deal on Ukraine aid, although it was unclear whether senators had enough time to clinch an agreement in the days remaining before leaving for a holiday break.

Senate Republicans earlier this month blocked an emergency spending bill with $50 billion in new Ukraine aid, demanding tougher steps to control immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Over the past week, Democrats and Republicans have made important progress towards an agreement on the national security supplemental,” top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer said on Monday. “While the job is not finished, I am confident we’re headed in the right direction.”

However, Schumer’s Republican counterpart, Mitch McConnell – whose support would be needed to pass such a bill – said it will “require some time” to reach a deal.

Another top Senate Republican, John Thune, sounded a similar note, telling reporters: “Obviously we are not going to get this done this week. We all know that now.”

Even if the Senate were to reach an agreement and pass a bill this week, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives – where a significant number of Republicans have voiced opposition to additional Ukraine aid – is not due to return to work until Jan. 8.

Last week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy visited Washington but received a skeptical reception from key Republican lawmakers, including House Speaker Mike Johnson.

(Reporting by Richard Cown, Patricia Zengerle, Kanishka Singh, Doina Chiacu and Katharine Jackson; editing by Rami Ayyub, Kieran Murray and Cynthia Osterman)