Senate Approves $13.6 Billion to Help Ukraine as Part of Huge Government Funding Bill

Senate Approves $13.6 Billion to Help Ukraine as Part of Huge Government Funding Bill
Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) speaks to reporters as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) listens, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Aug. 4, 2020. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Katabella Roberts

The Senate on Thursday night passed a $1.5 trillion budget bill to fund the government through the end of September after months of back and forth between lawmakers.

The Senate voted 68–31 to pass the bill, which will fund the federal government through Sept. 30, with 18 Republicans joining all Democrats voting in support. The billion-dollar spending package had earlier been passed by the House on Wednesday night.

Its passing means the government will avert a shutdown that would have started on Friday night, when funding runs out.

The bill now heads to President Joe Biden’s desk where he is expected to sign the measure into law before Friday night.

Among other things, the bipartisan spending measure contains emergency funding requested by the White House to provide humanitarian and security assistance to Ukraine amid Russia’s invasion, which has forced millions of Ukrainians to flee their homes.

Specifically, it contains $13.6 billion in emergency funding to support the people of Ukraine, split between humanitarian and security assistance.

Among the more than $13 billion set aside to help Ukraine, $100 million is for Food for Peace grants “to support in-kind agricultural commodity donations for food assistance to Ukraine and Ukrainian refugees.”

Another $22.1 million has been pledged to support “economic and trade-based analysis, enforcement, and coordination with partners on Russian and American vulnerabilities related to global trade and export ramifications of the conflict in Ukraine.”

Millions more would be directed toward helping Ukraine tackle cybercrime, deploying personnel to the region to offer intelligence support, and replenishing “US stocks of equipment sent to Ukraine through drawdown.”

A total of $4 billion will help displaced refugees.

Ahead of the vote, Republican senators called for the Biden administration to send Ukraine fighter jets after the country’s President Volodymyr Zelensky requested them.

But the Biden administration has expressed reluctance to do so for fear of dangerously escalating the conflict, even if the jets were supplied by Poland and sent to Ukraine by America.

Along with support for Ukraine, the spending measure funds regular U.S. military programs and a number of non-defense operations through Sept. 30, including money for infrastructure projects authorized by an earlier bipartisan package.

About $782 billion is allocated for military spending under the Defense Department, while an additional $125 billion has been allocated to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Notably, the government funding bill does not include the $22 billion that the Biden administration said was needed for things like treatments, vaccines, and other measures in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki called on Congress to provide those funds earlier Thursday, telling reporters at the White House, “We will need that funding in order to continue to fight the pandemic.”

“Without additional resources from Congress, the results are dire,” Psaki said, adding that testing capacity would decline this month and that in April, “free testing and treatments for tens of millions of Americans without health insurance will end.”

“In May, America’s supply of monoclonal antibodies will run out,” Psaki said. “So, failing to take action now will have severe consequences for the American people. That’s why we requested $22.5 billion to avoid severe disruptions to our COVID response.”

Biden had earlier called on lawmakers to approve the $22.5 billion in new spending during his State of the Union address.

However, the billions of dollars were negotiated down to $15.6 billion before pandemic funding was ultimately left out of the bill entirely as Republicans objected to the additional spending.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) also noted that lack of additional spending for COVID-19, but said that the bill “is overflowing with very good things for our troops, for American jobs, for our families, and for America,” NBC reported.

“It will give our troops a raise, provide more money for schools and Head Start programs and Pell grants, reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, fund the president’s Cancer Moonshot, and open the floodgates for funding the bipartisan infrastructure law,” he said ahead of the vote.

Reuters contributed to this report.