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House passes funding bill to provide aid to Ukraine, avert government shutdown

Congress faces a Friday deadline to pass a spending bill and keep the government open.

WASHINGTON — The House passed a massive spending bill Wednesday night to fund the federal government through September and provide nearly $14 billion in aid for Ukraine.

The $1.5 trillion bipartisan bill, which now heads to the Senate, is the culmination of months of negotiations on Capitol Hill that included a prolonged stalemate between Democrats and Republicans.

The nearly $13.6 billion devoted to Ukraine includes $6.5 billion for the Defense Department, with $3.5 billion to replenish equipment sent to Ukraine and $3 billion for U.S. troops who are helping to defend NATO in Europe. The bill would also provide money for humanitarian aid, to support Ukraine's energy grid and to combat disinformation.

The spending bill originally was slated to allocate $15.6 billion for the Covid pandemic response domestically and abroad. But that funding was cut after the bill ran into trouble.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a letter Wednesday that Covid funding would be removed, blaming Republicans for depriving Americans of “urgently needed” COVID assistance.

“It is heartbreaking to remove the Covid funding, and we must continue to fight for urgently needed Covid assistance, but unfortunately that will not be included in this bill,” she said.

The overall spending measure, which funds the government through Sept. 30, would provide increases to both defense and non-defense programs over 2021 levels.

Democrats were unable to repeal the Hyde Amendment, a decades-old policy that prohibits federal programs like Medicaid from paying for abortions.

House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said in a statement early Wednesday that the measure would lower the cost of living for families and create American jobs.

"During this time of great uncertainty and change, we are tackling some of our nation’s biggest challenges, including making health care more affordable, confronting the climate crisis, and protecting our national security," she said.

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., ranking member on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said in a statement that the bill excludes "partisan poison pills" and highlighted the boost to defense spending. "It also provides critically needed emergency assistance for our allies that are resisting Russian aggression in Ukraine without decreasing base defense funding by a single dollar," he said.

Democratic and Republican lawmakers have been eager to send billions of dollars in military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine as Washington and the European Union continue to punish Russian President Vladimir Putin and his allies with crippling sanctions.

The Biden administration initially asked for $6.4 billion in emergency funding for Ukraine, which Russia invaded on Feb. 24. Last week, the White House requested a $10 billion package that would pay for humanitarian, security and economic assistance for Ukraine and central European allies “due to Russia’s unjustified and unprovoked invasion,” Shalanda Young, the acting White House budget director, wrote in a letter to congressional leaders.

Congress faces a Friday night deadline, when government funding is set to expire, to pass the more-than 2,700-page spending bill and prevent a shutdown. The House also passed a short-term funding extension through Tuesday to ensure the Senate has enough time to pass the larger bill.

"This bill, the spending bill, comes at a consequential moment," said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Tuesday. "War in Europe has focused the energies of Congress into getting something done and getting it done fast, quickly."