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


The House of Representatives is expected to vote Wednesday to pass a massive $1.5 trillion government spending bill that will fund a wide range of priorities, including delivering desperately needed aid to Ukraine and additional money to fight Covid-19.

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 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 in 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.

The tight time frame will also 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.

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.

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