Biden asks Congress to ‘immediately’ pass the $40 billion Ukraine aid bill

“I’m bringing him to my office in the next few days,” Biden said in a statement.

But on Monday he said congressional leaders had told him to separate efforts to speed up aid to Ukraine. Biden initially requested $33 billion to help Ukraine in its fight against Russia, but Congress has proposed billions more for food aid and military equipment.

Democrats are now expected to move Ukraine and Covid-19 relief aid separately, starting with the House, as soon as this week.

“We cannot afford to delay this vital war effort,” Biden said in the statement. “Then, I am willing to accept that these two measures move separately, so that the bill for Ukraine’s aid reaches my office immediately.”

The Republicans in the Senate had insisted that the two issues move in separate legislative tracks. In April, Senate Republicans blocked an attempt to accept a $10 billion Covid relief bill over demands to vote on the amendments, including one targeting the Biden administration’s decision to lift a Trump-era order known as Title 42, which allowed US border officials to turn . Migrants to Mexico or their countries of origin immediately due to a public health crisis.

South Dakota Senator John Thune, the Senate’s number two Republican, said the Senate may consider both packages next week.

Thun said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has indicated he is open to allowing a vote on the Article 42 amendment, paving the way for addressing the $10 billion Covid-19 relief bill. A Schumer spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Thun said the Covid-19 bill “would be considered a different time.”

“I hear now that Schumer is open to a Title 42 amendment, which may, perhaps, lead to a vote at some point,” Thun added.

The White House didn’t want the Ukraine package to get stuck in Congress even though Democrats have been pushing to tie the two together over concerns that Republicans could derail the US response to the pandemic.

In a statement on Monday, Biden wrote that he was “delighted” that there “appears to be strong, bipartisan majority support” in Congress for assistance to Ukraine.

But he again stressed the importance of spending more resources to tackle the pandemic. The administration recently predicted that the United States could see 100 million cases of Covid-19 in the fall and winter.

“As vital as it is to help Ukraine combat Russian aggression, it is equally important to help Americans fight Covid,” Biden said.

“Without timely COVID funding, more Americans will needlessly die,” he added. “We will lose our place in line for America to order new treatments and vaccines for COVID in the fall, including next-generation vaccines in development, and we will not be able to maintain our supply of COVID tests.”

CNN’s Claire Foran contributed to this report.