Congress nears deal on Ukraine aid, government funding
Congress is on the cusp of finalizing an agreement to fund the government and provide billions in new aid related to Ukraine.
Key senators said on Tuesday that they hoped to have a deal finalizing the mammoth agreement within hours as lawmakers race to meet Friday night‘s deadline to prevent a government shutdown.
“Republicans and Democrats continue making good progress towards reaching a deal to fund the government. We are almost there. … Hopefully it will be done in the next few hours,” said Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).
Sen. Richard Shelby (Ala.), the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, told The Hill that they “were trying to wrap it up.”
“They are checking everything they can [in the bill],” Shelby said, referring to ongoing staff-level work. “We’ve got to seal it.”
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), who heads the House Appropriations Committee, told Democrats in a closed-door caucus meeting on Tuesday morning that the package is “98 percent” complete. A House leadership aide previously told The Hill that the goal was to unveil text of the bill on Tuesday and have a vote in the House on Wednesday.
Lawmakers aren’t ruling out needing to use a short-term stopgap bill to buy themselves more time if the mammoth spending package hits a snag. But they expect that any stopgap spending bill, which would keep the government funded at current levels, would be days long.
Congress is under pressure to quickly pass the mammoth spending package because it is expected to include billions in new aid tied to Ukraine.
The Biden administration’s request includes $4.8 billion for the Pentagon to support U.S. troop deployments to NATO countries and to provide additional military equipment to Ukraine. It is also asking for $5 billion for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development for security, economic and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine and allies on NATO’s eastern flank.
But senators have floated the possibility that this amount could swell to $12 billion, in part to be able to give Biden more flexibility in the future to provide additional aid.
In addition to aid for Ukraine, lawmakers are expected to include roughly $15 billion in new coronavirus relief funding.
“No one can say for certain how the virus will mutate. But today, we have the tools and know-how to fight the virus the minute it hits our shores while preserving as much of normal life as possible. All that’s needed is the federal funding, and $15 billion of funding will be in the omnibus bill,” Schumer said.
In a concession to Republicans, the funding is expected to be paid for. Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, said that most of the funding would come from redirecting state and local money greenlighted by Congress in previous coronavirus bills.
“I think a lot of it will come from there,” he said while noting that the bill was still being finalized.