House to vote on massive spending bill that includes $ 13.6 billion in Ukraine aid

Lawmakers are under pressure to pass the 2,741-page bill ahead of a Friday deadline when government funding is set to expire in order to avert a shutdown. The House is slated to move first to approve the sweeping legislation before sending it to the Senate.

As part of the effort to prevent a shutdown, the House will also vote on Wednesday on a stopgap bill to extend government funding through March 15. The Senate is expected to take up and pass this short-term funding extension in addition to passing the broader $ 1.5 trillion spending bill so that congressional clerks have time to finish processing the text of the larger bill before sending it to President Joe Biden for his signature.

The sweeping spending bill, known on Capitol Hill as the omnibus, was unveiled early Wednesday morning and is the product of months of talks between negotiators to fund the federal government through the end of the fiscal year. It also includes $ 13.6 billion in aid to Ukraine and $ 15.6 billion in Covid relief money among other provisions.
A government shutdown is not expected to take place, in part because many lawmakers are anxious to demonstrate support for Ukraine amid Russia’s deadly unprovoked assault on the country.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters Tuesday that lawmakers want to avoid a government shutdown at any time but “particularly at a time of crisis and confrontation” when the government needs “to act in bipartisan fashions and have our government operating at full capacity.”

Aid for Ukraine as the country fights back against Russia’s continued attacks has widespread support from both parties, and its inclusion as part of the broader spending package may help convince lawmakers reluctant to support other provisions in the bill to ultimately vote in favor.

But both chambers of Congress will have to act fast to pass the measure ahead of the looming deadline and any last-minute hold-ups could take the effort down to the wire.

What’s in the legislation

The omnibus consists of a series of fiscal year 2022 appropriations bills to keep the government running in addition to emergency supplemental funding for Ukraine and Covid-19 response.

The annual appropriations measures provide $ 730 billion in non-defense funding and $ 782 billion in defense funding.

Of the $ 13.6 billion in aid to Ukraine, money is set aside for humanitarian, defense and economic assistance. The bill also includes provisions for sanctions enforcement.

The emergency aid package sets aside $ 4 billion dollars to help refuges who have fled or were displaced within the country, increases the President’s authority for defense equipment transfer to Ukraine and other allied nations to $ 3 billion, according to a fact sheet from the House Appropriations Committee .

Of the $ 15.6 billion for Covid response, there are provisions to increase domestic preparedness and global response to the pandemic. The bill sets aside roughly $ 4.5 billion for global health efforts, such as money for the Global Vaccine Access Initiative, according to a fact sheet from the committee.

Among a wide range of other provisions, the omnibus will also renew the Violence Against Women Act and implement cybersecurity initiatives, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Wednesday.

“This historic legislation will carry major bipartisan legislation that has been in the making for years. The Violence Against Women Act, expired for too many years, will finally be reauthorized. New cybersecurity protections to fight against vicious cyber attacks to our infrastructure by Russia and other bad actors will also be incorporated, “the top Democratic congressional leaders said in a joint statement.

Tight turnaround for voting

The tight time frame will leave little time for lawmakers to review the entirety of the sweeping legislation – and a number of Republicans have already voiced frustration and complaints over the quick turnaround.

Any single senator could hold up quick passage of the bill and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will need consent from all 100 senators to secure a time agreement to approve the measure before the Friday at midnight deadline.

Republican Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota said it was wrong for Democrats to jam the bill through quickly without adequate time to properly vet it.

“It’s just dysfunctional to have something as large as this and then expect people to vote on it without having the opportunity to review it,” he told CNN.

Asked if he would hold up speedy passage of the bill to give time to review the bill, Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee said, “at a minimum, I want a vote on my amendment,” referring to his measure to end vaccine mandates.

GOP Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky also said he would want amendments considered.

Adding to the short window between now and Friday, House Democrats have a conference in Philadelphia starting later Wednesday and lasting until Friday, when President Joe Biden is expected to speak there.

Covid relief funding faces scrutiny

But some lawmakers are raising concerns about other elements of the package.

Democrats have been pushing for more Covid relief money in response to a request from the Biden administration for $ 22.5 billion for pandemic response, including funding for treatments, testing and vaccines, as well as money for work to protect against future variants and efforts to vaccinate more people globally.

Republicans, however, have pushed back, arguing that a full accounting of already allocated funds is needed before there’s any further spending.

Meanwhile, members of the Conservative House Freedom Caucus – which typically opposes government spending bills – want the Ukraine aid to be split off entirely from the funding bill.

“We request that you ensure that we take these matters up separately and that we have a full and robust debate on the amount of aid required in Ukraine,” the group said in a letter to GOP leadership on Tuesday.

The situation underscores how much of a bind some Republicans are in with the addition of Ukraine aid to the spending bill since GOP lawmakers do not want to be seen as opposing the emergency aid.

This story has been updated with additional developments Wednesday.

CNN’s Manu Raju and Melanie Zanona contributed to this report.

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