The U.S. House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to pass a $1.5 trillion omnibus spending bill that includes $13.6 billion in aid for Ukraine and European allies, and would fund the federal government through to Sept. 30.
Hours earlier, Democratic lawmakers scrapped the bill’s initial $15.6 billion COVID-19 aid provision, marking a major setback for the Biden administration who had pushed for weeks to have the additional funds approved.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called the decision to abandon the provision “heartbreaking.” Republicans had demanded cuts to state aid to fund the new initiative.
“We’ve got a war going on in Ukraine,” Pelosi told reporters, explaining the urgency Democrats felt in making concessions in bargaining with Republicans. “We have important work that we’re doing here.” She said with her party in the 50-50 Senate needing at least 10 GOP votes to pass legislation, Democrats “are going to have to know there has to be compromise.”
The overall bill was approved by the House in two separate votes. The measure’s security programs were overwhelmingly approved by 361-69, the rest by 260-171, with most Republicans opposed.
The Ukraine aid included $6.5 billion for the U.S. costs of sending troops and weapons to Eastern Europe and equipping allied forces there in response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion, which he launched on Feb. 24.
A further $6.8 billion would go toward care for refugees and provide economic aid to allies, and more to help federal agencies enforce economic sanctions against Russia and protect against cyber threats at home.
The figure is higher than the sum initially requested by the Biden administration, $6.5 billion, and the $10 billion figure in the White House’s formal request to Congress.
On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Congress’s aid package for Ukraine and its Eastern European allies stood at $14 billion. He criticized the speed at which the aid package has moved along.
Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), the GOP leader on the House Rules Committee, called the $1.5 trillion bill a “reasonable compromise” and said its extra defense spending was “clearly necessary in the wake of Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked aggression against Ukraine.”
Some $730 billion has also been allocated for military spending under the Defense Department, and a further $125 billion would go to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The bill would increase spending for child nutrition and child care, local law enforcement, improving broadband in rural areas, and education aid for disabled students and historically black colleges and universities.
The spending bill still needs to be passed by the Senate. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has said he hopes to pass the legislation before Friday to avert a government shutdown.