Congress passes $1.5 trillion spending bill to avert government shutdown, provide billions to Ukraine

The Senate passed a massive $1.5 trillion spending bill Thursday that would prevent a government shutdown and provide $13.6 billion in emergency aid for Ukraine.

The legislation passed 68-31 after receiving House approval on Wednesday. President Joe Biden is expected to sign the measure into law before government funding runs out Friday night.

The bipartisan spending measure would fund the federal government through Sept. 30, with increases to both defense and non-defense programs over 2021 levels.

The funding includes billions for the war in Ukraine, where over 2 million people have been forced from their homes since Russia invaded last month. The Ukraine-related spending includes money for humanitarian aid and $6.5 billion for the Defense Department — $3.5 billion to replenish equipment sent to Ukraine and $3 billion for U.S. troops who are helping NATO member states in Europe. It also provides money to support Ukraine’s energy grid and to combat disinformation.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, however, has made clear that he wants NATO and other supporters of Ukraine to impose a no-fly zone to counter Russia’s aerial attacks. The U.S. and Western allies have firmly rejected the idea.

The government funding bill passed by Congress is not the same version that was initially introduced. The final version does not include $22 billion that the Biden administration said was necessary to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki urged Congress to provide those funds earlier Thursday. “We will need that funding in order to continue to fight the pandemic,” she told reporters at the White House.

“Without additional resources from Congress, the results are dire,” Psaki said, adding that testing capacity would decline this month and in April, “free testing and treatments for tens of millions of Americans without health insurance will end. In May, America’s supply of monoclonal antibodies will run out.”

“So, failing to take action now will have severe consequences for the American people,” Psaki said.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., lamented the lack of Covid funding during remarks on the Senate floor Thursday, but said the bill “is overflowing with very good things for our troops, for American jobs, for our families, and for America.”

“It will give our troops a raise, provide more money for schools and Head Start programs and Pell grants, reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, fund the president’s Cancer Moonshot, and open the floodgates for funding the bipartisan infrastructure law,” he said before the Senate voted.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the bill “will allow crucial investments in our nation’s defense.”

He added that “we must rapidly fund the urgent assistance that Ukraine and our allies along NATO’s eastern flank need right now, but we must also make the investments in military modernization that will help America achieve peace for years and decades to come.”

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