Following the White House’s recent request of $10 billion worth of funding for additional humanitarian, security, and economic assistance for Ukraine and US’ Central European partners last March 2 as outlined 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 with a 68 to 31 vote.
Last Wednesday, the House of Representatives voted to pass the government funding bill in an apparent race against the clock, ahead of the Friday deadline when government funding is set to expire. Lawmakers from both camps had been frustrated with the process of the passage as there was little to no time to review the 2,741-page legislative text, which was released at 1:30 am ET last Wednesday.
An intra-party Democrat dispute threatened to derail the process as debates regarding the funds allocated in the American Rescue Plan were proposed to be used as an offset to the new legislation, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi caught in the middle of it. Some house democrats from the 30 states that were to lose COVID-19 relief funding believed that they were being stabbed in the back as COVID-19 relief would be eliminated from the package without consultation.
“We fought like tooth and nail to get these dollars home to our state governments. And now we’re sitting here this morning talking about that being called back is 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 at her fellow Democrats who revolted over said COVID relief offsets. Republicans, on the other hand, wanted to have full accounting and transparency of funds that were already allocated before they were to allocate more funds for COVID-19 relief.
Pelosi announced that the $15.6 billion supplemental COVID relief would be removed from the government funding bill, making the atmosphere very tense. In lieu of the removal, house Democrats introduced a new, stand-alone COVID relief bill, but it is expected that it would go through extreme scrutiny and opposition from the GOP. Now that the Senate has also passed the bill, a government shutdown is unlikely, which both the Democrats and Republicans have been working to avoid.
The government spending bill, known in political circles as “the omnibus,” comprises various 2022 appropriation bills essential to keep the government running. While the COVID-19 relief funding was disputed, there was general widespread bi-partisan support from both the Democrats and Republicans to send fiscal and economic aid to Ukraine. Ukraine had been the subject of an invasion that the world has widely regarded as one of the worst conflicts after World War II.
- $6.5 billion would be allocated to the US Department of Defense, where about $3 billion would be sent to the European Command for the deployment of troops to the region and funding for intelligence support. $3.5 billion would be used to replenish stocks of equipment that were sent to Ukraine. Note that troops were not sent to Ukraine but to NATO allies to bolster the defense of NATO’s eastern flank.
- $4 billion would be allocated to humanitarian support for refugees that had been displaced by the war. $2.6 billion through the US Agency for International Development (USAID) will be spent on emergency food assistance, health care, and other emergency services. $1.4 billion would be used for Migration and Refugee Assistance.
- $1.8 billion would be allocated to Ukraine’s macroeconomic needs in Ukraine, particularly for energy and cyber security efforts. $25 million would be allocated further to the US Agency for Global Media to ‘combat disinformation.’ Another $120 million would go to fund activists, local actors, and independent media to promote accountability.
“We’re giving the Ukrainians billions for food, medicine, shelter, and support for the over two million refugees who have had to leave Ukraine, as well as funding for weapons transfers like Javelins and Stingers,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Previously, the United States has sent over $1 billion to Ukraine just the past year for military and economic assistance. However, this is not the only time the US has supported Ukraine. In fact, it has done increasingly so since the 2014 annexation of Crimea.
According to the US State Department in a fact sheet published March 3, 2022, the United States has committed over $5.6 billion in assistance to Ukraine since 2014. In 2021, assistance packages worth $300 million for democratic and economic development and $650 million and $350 million in security assistance were sent to Ukraine amid its war with Russia.
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