Congress reaches bipartisan deal on Ukraine aid, $1.5T spending bill

0
41
Congress reaches bipartisan deal on Ukraine aid, $1.5T spending bill

Congressional leaders announced Wednesday they had agreed on a $1.5 trillion spending measure that funds the government through the end of September — and includes $13.6 billion in aid for Ukraine. 

With Congress facing a deadline of 11:59 p.m. Friday to avert a government shutdown, a House vote was scheduled for later Wednesday on the 2,741-page measure. Separately, the House planned to vote on a stopgap measure that would keep funding at current levels through March 15. That would allow Congress extra time to approve the larger bill and send it to President Biden without any pause in funding.

The deal comes one week after the White House urged Congress to approve $10 billion in military, humanitarian and economic aid for Ukraine. 

With massive bipartisan support, the funding pot quickly grew to $12 billion earlier this week, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday it had gone as high as $14 billion before details of the final bill were announced.

“War in Europe has focused the energies of Congress to getting something done and getting it done fast,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said, according to the Associated Press.

People fleeing advancing Russian forces file across wooden planks crossing Irpin River below a destroyed bridge as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues.
People fleeing advancing Russian forces file across wooden planks crossing Irpin River below a destroyed bridge as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues.
REUTERS/Thomas Peter
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that the escalating war in Europe has focused the energies of Congress.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that the escalating war in Europe has focused the energies of Congress.
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
Houses destroyed by shelling, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, are seen in Sumy, Ukraine March 8, 2022
Houses destroyed by shelling, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, are seen in Sumy, Ukraine March 8, 2022
Andrey Mozgovoy/via REUTERS

McConnell admitted that getting some of his Democratic colleagues to agree to increased defense spending in the bill was “like pulling teeth,” but emphasized that “It’s an important step. It needs to be passed. It needs to be passed quickly.” 

More than $4 billion of the aid allocated for Ukraine will go toward helping it and other Eastern European countries cope with the surge of more than 2 million refugees who have fled the Russian invasion that began on Feb. 24.

Another $6.7 billion will be spent on the deployment of US troops and equipment to the region, as well as the transfer of military items to Ukraine and other allies. 

An apartment building destroyed after shelling the day before in Ukraine's second-biggest city of Kharkiv on March 8, 2022.
An apartment building destroyed after shelling the day before in Ukraine’s second-biggest city of Kharkiv on March 8, 2022.
SERGEY BOBOK/AFP via Getty Images
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the financial aid for Ukraine  had gone as high as $14 billion before details of the final bill were announced.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the financial aid for Ukraine had gone as high as $14 billion before details of the final bill were announced.
AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib

The measure also sets aside $300 million for direct military assistance to Ukraine, with an additional $300 million going to help for the three Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania) and Poland. 

Funding has also been set aside for economic aid and the enforcement of sanctions against Russia. 

McConnell said the bill would provide loan guarantees to Poland as the Warsaw government seeks to transfer some of its aircraft to Ukraine’s air force. On Tuesday, Poland announced it had offered to send jets to Ukraine via the US air base at Ramstein, Germany — only for the Pentagon to dismiss the idea as not tenable.

A map detailing Russia's invasion of Ukraine and their advancement.
A map detailing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and their advancement.

Elsewhere, the measure spends $730 billion for domestic programs – a 6.7 percent increase from 2021. Republicans won a 5.6 percent increase in defense spending, to $782 billion.

Additionally, $15.6 billion will be earmarked for for COVID-19 vaccines, testing and treatment — well below the White House’s $22.5 billion request. Republicans said they’d forced Democrats to pay for the entire amount by pulling back money from COVID-19 relief bills enacted previously. Much of the money was to go to help states and businesses cope with the toll of the pandemic.

The legislation also includes funds for the Citizenship and Immigration Services in an attempt to reduce massive backlogs of people crossing into the US, and distributes billions of dollars initially provided by the bipartisan infrastructure bill enacted last year for road, rail and airport projects.

Ukrainian service and family members attend a memorial ceremony to pay their respects to Ukrainian soldiers killed in fighting with Russian forces, in Lviv, Ukraine, 09 March 2022.
Ukrainian service and family members attend a memorial ceremony to pay their respects to Ukrainian soldiers killed in fighting with Russian forces, in Lviv, Ukraine, 09 March 2022.
EPA/GEORGE VITSARAS
New members of the Territorial Defence Forces train to operate RPG-7 anti-tank launcher during military exercises amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine on March 9, 2022.
New members of the Territorial Defence Forces train to operate RPG-7 anti-tank launcher during military exercises amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on March 9, 2022.
REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

Since the government’s fiscal year began last Oct. 1, agencies have been running on spending levels approved during Donald Trump’s final weeks in the White House. Congress has approved three short-term bills since then keeping agency doors open.

With Post wires

Source link