There’s bipartisan support in Congress to quickly send more aid to Ukraine as it fights back against Russia’s invasion – but the money is tied to a larger spending bill that has yet to be finalized.
The White House has asked lawmakers to attach the additional spending to an appropriations bill that will set the spending limits for the federal government for fiscal year 2022. Congress must pass the bill by midnight Friday to avoid a government shutdown.
The fiscal year started in October, but lawmakers have haggled over the full year appropriations bill for months and have passed three stopgap funding bills, known as continuing resolutions, to keep the government operating in the meantime.
That means that federal agencies have been funded at 2021 levels for the past five months. Without a full year appropriations bill, funding is also held up for brand new federal programs, like some of those created by the bipartisan infrastructure law that passed in November.
Congress could pass another continuing resolution to keep the government operating temporarily after Friday’s deadline if lawmakers can’t make a deal on the larger bill this week.
It’s also possible for Congress to vote on a standalone bill, separate from the larger appropriations package, to approve the aid for Ukraine, said Marc Goldwein, senior vice president and senior policy director for the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.
$12 billion in new aid for Ukraine
Last week, the White House asked Congress to provide additional humanitarian, security and economic assistance for Ukraine and allies in the region. The new funds would be on top of the more than $1 billion the US has provided to Ukraine over the past year.
The White House requested $10 billion last week, but lawmakers told CNN Monday that as much as $12 billion could be included in the legislation.
The money would support American troop deployments to neighboring countries as well as additional defense equipment for Ukraine.
The White House asked that the funds provide emergency food assistance and other humanitarian support for people in Ukraine and refugees leaving the country.
The White House also asked that the money be used to bolster regional efforts to counter Russian cyberattacks and disinformation and strengthen the enforcement of economic sanctions on Russia. The money could also help support Ukraine’s electrical grid, according to the White House.
Key lawmakers said Monday that they plan to craft a separate piece of legislation suspending normal trade relations with Russia and its ally Belarus, and grant the White House the authority to increase tariffs on the two countries.
There is bipartisan support for sending more aid to Ukraine. But Republicans have pushed back against the Biden administration’s request to also include more Covid-19 relief aid in the spending bill.
In the same letter asking for more aid for Ukraine, the White House requested Congress provide an additional $22.5 billion to fund what it says are “immediate needs” for the government’s ongoing Covid-19 response efforts.
“Without additional resources, we won’t be able to secure the treatments, vaccines, and tests Americans need in coming months and fight future variants,” wrote Shalanda Young, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, in a White House blog post last week.
Many Republicans balked at the idea of approving more Covid-19 relief money, arguing that it’s unclear why additional funds are needed. In a letter led by Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, dozens of Republican senators asked the White House for a “full accounting” of how the previous money was spent before considering authorizing more money.
Since March 2020, Congress approved nearly $6 trillion for the federal government’s pandemic response. Those funds provided several relief benefits for struggling Americans, including stimulus checks, boosted unemployment benefits and aid to small businesses, to name a few.
Lawmakers were still negotiating over the Covid-19 relief funds early this week. Some Republicans said they would like the money to be fully offset by unspent funds provided by earlier relief laws.
Still, any one senator can slow down the voting process, and some might, given that there will be little time to review what is expected to be a bill spanning more than 1,000 pages before Friday’s deadline. Consent from all 100 senators is needed to schedule a vote in their chamber. At least 10 Republican senators have said they will first require a roll call vote on an amendment to defund the enforcement of federal Covid-19 vaccine mandates.
CNN’s Manu Raju contributed to this report.