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Saturday, February 24, 2024
Courthouse News Service
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Senate passes long-term government spending bill, $13.6 billion in aid to Ukraine

The $1.5 trillion bill will fund the government through Sept. 30 and includes a substantial aid package for Ukraine.

WASHINGTON (CN) — After months of fraught negotiations, the Senate passed legislation late Thursday to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year, providing hefty spending increases for domestic and military programs and nearly $14 million in aid to Ukraine.

The omnibus, a package of 12-bills that funds federal agencies and the military, passed the upper chamber by a 68-31margin, providing a moment of bipartisan unity after months of disagreements over budget spending had Congress repeatedly passing short-term spending bills and narrowly avoiding several government shutdowns.

Government funding was set to run out at midnight Friday, a deadline that, combined with Russia's ongoing military siege of Ukraine, forced bipartisan compromise on the $1.5 trillion package.

As Russia continues its attack on Ukraine, the legislation provides $13.6 billion in aid to Ukraine and the U.S.' European allies. Those funds will send military supplies and humanitarian aid to Ukraine as well as additional U.S. troops to Europe.

"The Ukrainian people are fighting for their lives and fighting for the survival of their young democracy. Congress has a moral obligation to stand behind them as they resist the evils of Vladimir Putin and his campaign of carnage," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor Thursday.

Democrats and Republicans alike made concessions to get the omnibus across the finish line.

Democrats agreed to raise defense spending and keep the Hyde amendment, a decades-old provision that bans federal dollars from going toward abortions, while Republicans ceded to pressure from Democrats to raise spending on domestic programs.

In total, the bipartisan deal allocates $730 billion for domestic programs, up 6.7% from last year's budget and $782 billion for defense spending, 5.6% more than was spent in 2021.

"The bill maintains parity between defense and non-defense spending growth," Senate Minority Leader McConnell said on the Senate floor Thursday.

The domestic spending in the legislation includes funds for child care, President Joe Biden's Cancer Moonshot research program and an increase in Pell grant funds for low-income college students.

It also reauthorizes the expired Violence Against Women Act, legislation that lapsed in 2019 and provided legal protections for women against domestic violence and sexual assault.

The renewed version of the act expands protections for transgender women and Native American women, allowing tribal courts to prosecute non-Native people who committed domestic violence and sexual assault crimes on tribal land.

Notably not in the bill is funding for Covid-19 vaccines, treatments and testing, something the White House had pushed for, warning that federal funding would be critical to keep case counts low and prepare the country for future variants of the virus.

An earlier version of the spending package allocated $15 billion in Covid-19 aid, but in order to placate Republicans, Democrats agreed to partially fund that aid by using state money left over from the American Rescue Plan.

That compromise drew ire from Democratic lawmakers representing states with unspent American Rescue Plan funds, leading the House to cut all Covid-19 funding from the bill on Wednesday in order to quickly get the legislation passed.

Without that funding, the federal government will run out of vaccines and Covid-19 tests. The House introduced a proposal to vote next week on a standalone bill that will provide federal funds for Covid-19 programs, but it will likely face tough opposition from Senate Republicans.

"Nobody argues that this package is perfect. I am deeply disappointed, deeply disappointed, that the administration's request for more Covid funding failed to make it into the House bill, but we are going to keep fighting to make sure we get that money approved as soon as possible," Schumer said on the Senate floor Thursday.

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Categories / Government, International, Politics

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