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House to vote on funding bill with Ukraine aid

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), with Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Representative Jerry Nadler (D-NY), holds a news conference for their Protecting Our Democracy Act to attempt to create checks and balances on presidential power , on Capitol Hill in Washington, December 9, 2021.

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

The US House will vote Wednesday on legislation that would fund the government through September and send nearly $ 14 billion in aid to Ukraine as it struggles to fend off an invasion by Russia.

Congress has to pass a spending bill by Friday to prevent a government shutdown. To give the Senate enough time to vote on it, the House plans to pass a second bill to extend current funding through Tuesday.

Lawmakers crafted the larger $ 1.5 trillion bill after weeks of talks. Democrats and Republicans had to settle disputes over how much to hike spending on domestic programs and the military – a debate that evolved after Russia attacked Ukraine last month.

“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,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement Wednesday.

The legislation is expected to pass with support from both parties. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell backs the funding bill and said he would urge his caucus to vote for it.

The Biden administration also supports the plan.

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Congress for years has used short-term spending bills to dodge shutdowns with last-minute votes. Funding lapses can lead to furloughs of federal workers, disruptions to government services and broad economic damage.

Both parties also want to prevent a shutdown to avoid an appearance of dysfunction as the US takes a leading role in the international effort to hamster Russia’s economy and bolster Ukraine’s defenses.

The new spending bill fits into the broader US strategy in Ukraine. The $ 13.6 billion set aside for the conflict would fund aid for displaced Ukrainians, equipment for the country’s military and US troop deployments to neighboring nations.

Biden’s Office of Management and Budget said the money would allow the US “to respond quickly and efficiently to the emerging and evolving needs in Ukraine, across the region, and around the world.”

The $ 1.5 trillion bill includes $ 782 billion in defense spending and $ 730 billion for nondefense programs. Many Democrats and a handful of Republicans have long tried to rein in military funding as the US maintains its place as by far the biggest spender on defense in the world.

McConnell said the bill contained more defense funding than the Biden administration first proposed and more money to support Ukraine’s military than Democrats wanted.

The plan would also put $ 15.6 billion into the US coronavirus response effort. While infections in the country have plummeted since the worst of the wave driven by the omicron variant, the additional funding would help respond to possible future twists in the pandemic.

Pelosi and Schumer said the money would help the US “protect and treat against new variants, avoid shutdowns and fight the virus abroad.”

“This makes it far more likely that if and when a new variant hits, the country will be able to maintain this new normal,” they said.

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