WASHINGTON — Congress passed a bill on Thursday that would bolster President Joe Biden’s authority to loan U.S. military hardware to Ukraine.
The House passed the Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act, introduced by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, by a 417-10 vote after the Senate unanimously passed the legislation earlier this month.
“Today we are sending President Biden’s office legislation to revive the back-to-back lend-lease initiative that turned the tide of World War II and will ensure the efficient delivery of new supplies to Ukraine and other countries. other Eastern European countries,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D.-California, said in a statement ahead of the vote.
The bipartisan legislation aims to revive a World War II-era program that allowed the government to loan or lease military equipment to U.S. allies.
The bill would allow the Ministry of Defense to loan or lease defense articles to Ukraine or any other Eastern European country, such as Poland, affected by the Russian invasion.
Biden can already use Lend-Lease authorities under the Arms Export Controls Act, but the latest bill would exempt Ukraine and neighboring countries from several requirements imposed by that law.
Under current law governing the Lend-Lease program, the President must formally determine that leased equipment is not necessary for US military use. It also makes the recipient country financially responsible for reimbursing the United States for all costs incurred, including if the items are damaged or destroyed.
The Lend-Lease bill would lift these — and several more — restrictions on lending US military hardware to Ukraine and Eastern European security partners.
The bill would also remove a legal time limit that caps leases at five years, while requiring the president to establish expedited procedures for delivering military equipment loaned or leased to Ukraine within two months of its entry into force.
However, it remains unclear whether the Biden administration intends to make use of the president’s lend-lease powers.
“These are not leases that we do with our weapon systems at this time, so this bill is complementary – but not necessarily necessary – but it will be available if needed,” the Majority Leader told the House. House Steny Hoyer, D-Md. ., told reporters during a press call on Wednesday.
On the same day Congress passed the Ukrainian Lend-Lease Bill, the Biden administration submitted a massive $33 billion request to Congress for additional Ukrainian aid.
This funding request includes more than $20 billion in additional Ukrainian military and security assistance.
Congress had already allocated $3.5 billion to replace US military equipment sent to Ukraine under the $1.5 trillion government funding bill it passed last month.
Bryant Harris is the congressional reporter for Defense News. He has covered the intersection of US foreign policy and national security in Washington since 2014. He has previously written for Foreign Policy, Al-Monitor, Al Jazeera English and IPS News.