US Senate passes $1.5 trillion government funding bill with $13.6 billion for Ukraine aid

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Following the White House’s recent request for $10 billion in funding for additional humanitarian, security, and economic assistance for Ukraine and U.S. Central European partners on March 2, as noted in a letter Sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the US Senate has now passed a $1.5 trillion government funding bill, which included $13.6 billion in aid to Ukraine. The Senate approved the funding bill by a vote of 68 to 31.

Last Wednesday, the House of Representatives voted to pass the government funding bill in an apparent race against time, ahead of Friday’s deadline for when government funding is due to expire. Lawmakers on both sides had been frustrated with the passage process because there was little or no time to review the 2,741-page legislative text, which was released at 1:30 a.m. ET last Wednesday.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi addressing attendees at the 2019 California Democratic Party State Convention at the George R. Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, California. (Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0via Wikimedia Commons)

An intra-Democratic dispute has threatened to derail the process as debates over funds allocated in the US bailout have been proposed to be used as compensation for new legislation, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi caught in the environment. Some House Democrats in all 30 states who were set to lose COVID-19 aid funding believed they were being stabbed in the back because COVID-19 aid would be dropped from the package without consultation.

“We fought tooth and nail to get those dollars back to our state governments. And now we’re sitting here this morning talking about recall being the option,” said Democratic Rep. Angie Craig of Minnesota, who walked out of Pelosi’s office.

A source told CNN that Pelosi was apparently angry with fellow Democrats who rioted over these COVID relief offsets. Republicans, on the other hand, wanted to have full accountability and transparency of funds already allocated before allocating more funds for COVID-19 relief.

Pelosi announced that the additional $15.6 billion in COVID relief would be removed from the government’s funding bill, making the atmosphere very tense. Instead of suppression, House Democrats have introduced a new standalone COVID relief bill, but it is expected to face GOP scrutiny and opposition. Now that the Senate has also passed the bill, a government shutdown is unlikely, something Democrats and Republicans are working to avoid.

The Government Expenditure Bill, known in political circles as the “Omnibus”, includes various 2022 Appropriation Bills essential to the proper functioning of government. While funding for COVID-19 aid was disputed, there was widespread bipartisan support from Democrats and Republicans to send fiscal and economic aid to Ukraine. Ukraine had been subject to an invasion that the world widely regarded as one of the worst conflicts after World War II.

Of the total of $1.5 trillion, $13.6 billion is allocated for programs of humanitarian aid, military defense and economic assistance to Ukraine. Here’s how the funds would be awarded:

  • $6.5 billion would be allocated to the US Department of Defense, where about $3 billion would be sent to European Command for troop deployment in the region and funding for intelligence support. 3.5 billion dollars would be used to replenish the stocks of equipment sent to Ukraine. Note that the troops were not sent to Ukraine but to NATO allies to strengthen the defense of NATO’s eastern flank.
  • $4 billion would be allocated for humanitarian aid to refugees displaced by war. $2.6 billion through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) will be spent on emergency food aid, health care and other emergency services. $1.4 billion would be used for migration and refugee aid.
  • $1.8 billion would be allocated to Ukraine’s macroeconomic needs in Ukraine, particularly for energy and cybersecurity efforts. A further $25 million would be allocated to the US Global Media Agency to “combat misinformation”. An additional $120 million would fund activists, local actors and independent media to promote accountability.

“We are giving Ukrainians billions for food, medicine, housing and support for the more than two million refugees who have had to leave Ukraine, as well as funding for arms transfers like Javelins and Stingers” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Previously, the United States sent more than $1 billion to Ukraine last year for military and economic assistance. However, this is not the only time the United States has supported Ukraine. In fact, it has done so increasingly since the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

According to the US State Department in a fact sheet released March 3, 2022, the United States has committed more than $5.6 billion in assistance to Ukraine since 2014. In 2021, assistance programs worth $300 million for development Democratic and Economic Development and $650 million and $350 million in security aid were sent to Ukraine amid its war with Russia.

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