Senate Passes Bill to Aid Ukraine and Avert Government Shutdown

WASHINGTON — The Senate approved a temporary spending package Thursday to keep government funding past Friday’s deadline and send another significant round of emergency aid to Ukraine in its war with Russia, stalling negotiations on a longer-term financing measure until after the November elections. .

The legislation, which would extend government funding through Dec. 16, passed 72 to 25. That sent it to the House, which was expected to quickly pass the measure, sending it to President Biden for his signature before the funding expired in midnight. September 30th.

In addition to continuing government spending for several weeks, the move would provide about $12.3 billion in emergency aid for Ukraine as it struggles to continue claiming territory from Russia.

It sailed through the Senate with few objections, after Democrats killed a power permitting measure by Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, who had initially insisted on its inclusion after being promised a vote in exchange for their support last month for the party’s victory. major climate, health and fiscal package.

The proposal, which would make it easier to build solar, wind, oil and gas infrastructure, angered members of both parties, and Manchin agreed to scrap it on Tuesday as it threatened to derail the spending package and lead to a government shutdown. at the end of the week.

“The last thing the American people need right now is a senseless government shutdown,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat and Majority Leader, said in a Senate speech before the vote. “I am optimistic that we are on track to avoid one well before the funding deadline.”

The aid tranche for Ukraine comes after Congress has already approved some $54 billion in two previous packages. When enacted, the investment in Ukraine will be the largest amount of military aid the United States has committed to any country in a single year in nearly half a century, since the Vietnam War.

It would provide $4.5 billion for a dedicated fund to support the Ukrainian government and $3 billion for weapons, equipment and other military support. It would also provide $1.5 billion to replenish US weapons already shipped to Ukraine and $2.8 billion for the Department of Defense. And it would allow Biden to authorize the transfer of up to $3.7 billion in US weapons and equipment to Ukraine.

“Aiding Ukraine is not a symbolic feel-good gesture, it is literally an investment in our own national security and that of our allies,” Sen. Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican and Minority Leader, said in a speech urging support. the package. .

Lawmakers also agreed to address some internal needs, including ensuring the continuation of a “user fee” agreement that supplements a significant portion of the Food and Drug Administration’s budget. It would also allow greater flexibility for the federal government to spend existing disaster relief funds and provide $20 million to help address the water crisis in Jackson, Mississippi, and $2 billion in grants for post-disaster reconstruction efforts. natural in 2021 and 2022.

The administration’s announcement Thursday morning that it would provide more federal assistance and expand the disaster declaration for western Alaska, where a powerful storm hit several communities, helped resolve a last-minute objection from that delegation’s condition. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, Republicans from Alaska, pushed the administration for expansion, particularly after a similar request for Puerto Rico was fulfilled.

The measure also includes $1 billion for a program championed by Democrats. to help low-income families handle higher energy and heating costs in the coming winter.

But party leaders, facing Republican opposition, scrapped other Democratic priorities from the package, including the Biden administration’s request for billions of dollars in emergency funding to combat the coronavirus pandemic and the spread of smallpox. monkey across the country.

Democrats have struggled to pass another round of pandemic relief funds since it was abruptly cut from a sprawling government funding package in March, as Republicans balked at the inclusion of new federal funding to address the coronavirus crisis. coronavirus.

“I will continue to fight for these important resources,” Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, a Democrat and chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, promised in a statement, adding that he would continue to push for a general annual package. “The federal government funds programs that the American people depend on, and we must do the work that we were sent here to do,” he added.

Passage of the stopgap spending bill was the last legislative deadline facing the Senate before its members disperse ahead of the midterm elections, and senators began leaving Washington quickly after casting their votes. But the action created an overwhelming to-do list for after the November vote. Senators will have to discuss the dozen annual spending bills, and another round of bills earmarked for their states, before several top lawmakers, including Leahy, retire at the end of the year.

“I think both sides — at least the overwhelming majority of Democrats and Republicans would like to fund the government, do its job,” said Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, who is retiring. “There are always some who say, ‘Let’s move on to next year.’ I said that’s nonsense.

Mr. Manchin and other senators have pushed to revise his plan to streamline energy infrastructure construction across the country in the coming weeks. Senators will also need to address the annual military policy bill, as well as ambitions to vote to codify same-sex marriage protections and strengthen the Voter Recount Act and the nation’s democratic systems in response to Capitol riots on January 6.