The spending bill allocates $13.6 billion in emergency assistance for Ukraine and NATO allies, with $4 billion in humanitarian assistance for the more than 2 million refugees who have fled the country. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo
March 9 (UPI) -- The U.S. House of Representatives late Wednesday passed a sweeping $1.5 trillion omnibus bill to keep the government running through end of September and includes billions of dollars in aid for Ukraine amid Russia's war.
The defense and homeland security portions of the spending package passed 361-69 after its domestic spending segment passed 260-171, sending the massive 2,700 page bill to the Senate.
President Joe Biden has to sign the bill by Friday when the existing continuing resolution funding expires.
Shalanda Young, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, called on Congress to send the bill to the president's desk "without delay."
"The bipartisan funding bill is proof that both parties can come together to deliver for the American people and advance critical national priorities," she said in a statement carried by the White House. "It will mean historic levels of assistance for the Ukrainian people, a bold new initiative to drive unprecedented progress in curing cancer and other diseases and more support to keep local communities safe."
The bill came together following months of negotiations that the Republicans backed as it increased defense spending, limited non-defense spending and maintained policies of former President Donald Trump while not including "any poison pill writers," Rep. Kay Granger, the Republicans' ranking member in the appropriations committee, said from the floor.
"Because of this bill, President Trump's successful 'Remain In Mexico' program will continue and President Biden's plan to cancel existing border wall funding will be rejected," she said, referring to the former president's plan that forced asylum seekers to await their U.S. court dates in Mexico. "I'm proud to say that this bill not only funds the police it increases resources for law enforcement agencies to address the troubling nationwide increase in crime."
Earlier Wednesday, House Speak Nancy Pelosi with Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York praised the bill as "historic."
"This bipartisan agreement will help us address many of the major challenges we face at home and abroad: from COVID-19, to the vicious and immoral attack on Ukraine, to the need to lower costs for hardworking American families," the Democratic pair said in a statement. "This historic legislation will carry many bipartisan legislation that has been in the making for years."
The omnibus bill includes $782 in defense spending, which is a 5.6% increase over the last fiscal year, and $730 billion in non-defense spending, which Rep. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat and the chair of the appropriations committee, said was the largest increase in non-defense programs in four years.
"It makes significant investments in communities around the country, funds critical programs supporting America's middle class, protects our nation's veterans and invests in our national security," he said in a statement.
The defense spending portion includes $166.8 billion for active, reserve and National Guard military personnel, $256.3 billion for operation and maintenance and $144.9 billion for the procurement of new equipment, such as aircraft.
It also includes $1 billion to replace missile interceptors used by Israel's Iron Dome defense system that were used during its recent fighting against Hamas in May.
Concerning Ukraine, it allocates $13.6 billion in emergency assistance to Kyiv and NATO allies, with $4 billion in humanitarian assistance for the more than 2 million refugees who have fled the country, more than $3 billion for European Command operations mission support and nearly $1.8 billion to cover Kyiv's and neighboring countries' macroeconomic needs, such as energy and cybersecurity.
It also enforces sanctions against Russia with funding for the related Departments of Commerce, Justice and the treasury.
"The assault that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin has made on Ukraine is an assault on democracy. So the Ukrainians are not only defending their country, they're defending democracy,"Pelosi said Wednesday during her weekly press conference, which was held prior to the bill hitting the house floor.
Lawmakers voted on the bill after Democrats Wednesday afternoon removed $15.6 billion from it that was allocated to fight COVID-19 due to opposition over it being offset with American Rescue Plan money that went unused by states.
In a letter to colleagues on the funds' removal, Pelosi, D-Calif., blamed Republicans and some members of the Democratic Party for resisting the Biden administration's request to include additional moneys to battle the pandemic.
"It is heartbreaking to remove the COVID funding, and we must continue to fight for urgently needed COVID assistance, but unfortunately that will not be included in this bill," she said.
Among the Democrats to reject the offset measure was Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri who criticized Congress' ability to find new money for defense spending but when it comes to investing in communities the funds must be shifted from somewhere else.
"We cannot turn out backs on the progress this money is intended to fund," she said in a statement, referring to the American Rescue Plan money. "In Missouri, this funding was already appropriated to help fund childcare, healthcare, housing and our schools. To turn around and now say we're taking hundreds of millions of dollars back, in the name of bipartisanship, is just unbelievable."
The democrats are to submit a standalone COVID-19 relief bill instead.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, March 11, 2022. Biden called for an end to normal trade relations with Russia, clearing the way for increased import tariffs, and announced a ban on Russian-made vodka and caviar. Photo by Al Drago/UPI | License Photo