It may have been one of those rare occasions when President Joseph Biden addressed Americans from his Oval Office Desk; but last Friday’s speech, only the second of his Presidency, has done little to either hasten the flow of money to allies or break the logjam that the House of Representatives is currently witnessing without a Speaker.

Biden said all the necessary words and lines on Israel and Ukraine including portraying the Hamas and Vladimir Putin as trying to derail democracies. But the real question remains as to how close the White House is in getting the necessary funding out of Congress.

The Hamas-Putin linkage may seem bizarre to some but President Biden played it clever by making the comparison and in the process came up with a $105 billion security package for situations in Israel, Ukraine, Taiwan/Indo-Pacific and enhanced goodies for the US-Mexico border security.

The special package would also include humanitarian assistance to civilians affected in Israel and Gaza and efforts to secure the release of hostages. It is believed that of the 14 American hostages in the hands of the Hamas, two have been released. The Biden White House is asking for some $61 billion for Ukraine, some $45 billion of it for equipment, replenishment, intelligence and defence support and the remainder for economic, security and operational assistance. This new package for the Ukraine is on top of the $115 billion or so already given since the start of the war in February 2022.

Defence support

The assistance that the Biden administration has come up with has a little more than $14 billion for Israel for defence support including efforts to bolster the Jewish state’s missile defence system and the development of the Iron Beam. Nearly $4 billion has also been earmarked for the State Department for a variety of programmes, including enhancing the security of American embassy.

The overall humanitarian aid comes to $10 billion for Ukraine, Israel and Gaza including for support to Palestinian refugees in the West Bank. And with the obvious eye on the anti-China hawks, the Biden administration is asking for some $7.4 billion for Taiwan and the Indo-Pacific region.

This time around the Biden administration is asking for close to $14 billion to address security at the US-Mexico border, not just for border operations but also for temporary holding facilities, border patrol agents, asylum officers and immigration judge teams.

It has been pointed out that earlier this year the White House had requested but failed to get some $4 billion to deal with fentanyl trafficking and help to migrants at the border. But this time around it is for broader measures in the hope that lawmakers will approve, especially conservatives who have been sharply critical of weak policies at the Mexican border.

Biden has been in the corridors of Washington politics for some fifty years and knows well that putting out a funding programme that includes broad elements stands a good chance to be agreed upon — in one sweep the administration has roped in Ukraine, Israel, Gaza, West Bank, border patrol and strengthening the southern flank. But there are many problems with the US Congress at this point, something that the White House is aware of; heading that list is another extension of the deadline of keeping the government going after November 17.

Republican pressure

The foreign funding fatigue aside, first reactions from Capitol Hill have been brutal with influential Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas calling Biden’s “slush fund proposal” Dead on Arrival. He has stressed, for instance, that humanitarian assistance to Gaza could end up inadvertently funding a “resupply line” for Hamas terrorists. “The Biden proposal is going nowhere, and Senate Republicans will take the lead on crafting a funding bill that protects Americans and their interests,” Cotton said.

The Senate is expected to take up President Biden’s funding request first as Republicans in the House of Representatives after three rounds of voting are yet to rally around a person who will be the Speaker.

The writer is a senior journalist who has reported from Washington DC on North America and United Nations