WASHINGTON — The Defense Department’s No. 2 civilian official said Tuesday the Biden administration plans to ask Congress for money to pay for U.S. troop deployments in Eastern Europe — on the same day Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., floated the possibility of additional Ukraine funding.

Asked about the potential for additional funding to respond to the crisis, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks said the Pentagon is working with Congress to backfill the cost of U.S. forces surged to Eastern Europe. Those forces were not included in the FY23 budget request, she said.

“Congress on a bipartisan basis has been very forward leaning in terms of its interest in making sure they can help us be whole against those requirements,” she said at a roundtable with reporters. “As we are able to kind of abrogate those costs, a lot of that is Army cost, in terms of Army movement. We make sure to capture those costs, and we’re working with Congress.”

McConnell on Tuesday noted Congress may need to pass an additional funding bill to respond to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“We may need to do another supplemental,” McConnell said during remarks in his home state of Kentucky. “This is critically important that we win, that the Russians be defeated, that we do everything we can to punish them both on the economic side and military side.”

Congress finalized a $1.5 trillion spending bill last month that provides $13.6 billion in new aid for the Ukraine crisis. The money was in large part to restore military stocks of equipment already transferred to Ukrainian military units through the president’s drawdown authority, while $3.1 billion was to cover “deployment, operational, and intelligence costs” for U.S. forces deployed to Europe in response to the Russian actions.

Legislation supporting Ukraine and punishing Russia has become easy fodder in recent weeks for an otherwise bitterly partisan Congress to pass into law.

President Joe Biden signed into law last week two separate bills penalizing Russia, which both the Senate and the House quickly passed before adjourning for a two-week recess.

The Senate passed both pieces of legislation — one bill banning Russian energy imports and another suspending normal trade relations with Moscow — by a 100-0 vote.

Separately, the Senate unanimously passed another bill last week intended to expedite military aid to Ukraine by easing statutory requirements under the president’s authority to lease or loan defense articles to Kyiv.

However, the House did not take action on the Ukraine bill before recessing.

Hicks said the Biden administration is in a “continuing dialogue” with Ukrainian officials over the types of weapons it plans to send, and that presidential decisions on the matter are pending.

“Yes, we will continue to look at the type of capabilities that the Ukrainians are asking for in terms of how to give them more range and distance,” Hicks said.

Washington is debating an increase to U.S. military deployments in Eastern Europe, which grew after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. That would represent another added expense.

But any major changes in force posture will probably have to wait for the early July NATO summit in Madrid, Hicks said.

“Given that we’re in the midst of operations now, those operations may continue for some time as they are,” she said. “I wouldn’t anticipate drastic changes in U.S. posture, and certainly not before there’s a summit where there’s a general understanding of what allied posture is going to be.”

Bryant Harris is the Congress reporter for Defense News. He has covered U.S. foreign policy, national security, international affairs and politics in Washington since 2014. He has also written for Foreign Policy, Al-Monitor, Al Jazeera English and IPS News.

Joe Gould is the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He served previously as Congress reporter.

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