The House passed a roughly $40 billion supplemental package of military, economic and humanitarian aid for Ukraine on Tuesday night just hours after Democratic leaders introduced the bill.
The measure won broad bipartisan backing from House lawmakers on a 368-57 vote. It now heads to the Senate where the measure could clear for President Joe Biden’s signature later this week.
The quick movement came after Senate Republicans earlier in the day said there were some lingering disagreements over text that appropriators began circulating in the morning. Negotiators agreed to drop a provision that would allow for the settlement of Afghan refugees that was part of Biden’s initial $33 billion request, for instance, after pushback from Republicans worried about vetting procedures.
“There’s a number of issues we’ve looked at, and I said I can’t support the Afghan bills unless those are worked out, and some of them would be waivers for those that are affiliated with terrorist organizations or recruited child soldiers, and those are not things we should be waiving,” Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said earlier Tuesday. “It’s in the language, and I can’t support with it in the text.”
Senate Appropriations ranking member Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., said after House Democrats introduced the bill that “we’re really close” to an agreement, though he suggested there could still be tweaks before the measure clears. Other senators said the measure could clear the Senate as soon as Thursday.
“Time is of the essence — and we cannot afford to wait,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote in a letter to colleagues announcing the bill’s release. “With this aid package, America sends a resounding message to the world of our unwavering determination to stand with the courageous people of Ukraine until victory is won.”
In a late change, possibly designed in part to win over wavering Republicans, House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., offered an amendment during Rules Committee consideration that would add an extra $304 million for the Pentagon to replenish U.S. stocks of weapons and other equipment delivered to Ukraine.
The change was tucked into the rule for floor debate as a “self-executing” amendment, which meant upon adoption of the rule, the added funds were officially incorporated into the base text.
Democrats had paved the way for what’s now a $40.1 billion aid package — $7.1 billion more than Biden requested — by ceding to a Republican desire to consider the measure separately from COVID-19 funding. The pandemic relief has been tied up in a dispute over the administration’s plan to lift the so-called Title 42 policy barring some migrants from entering the United States.
While the negotiations were wrapping up, Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States, Oksana Markarova, met with Senate Democrats at their weekly policy lunch Tuesday to discuss what assistance is needed as her country battles a Russian invasion.
Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer exchanged phone calls with Pelosi during the lunch to hammer out the final details of the aid measure, according to Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va.
Biden issued a statement Monday calling on Congress to pass a Ukraine bill “immediately, and get it to my desk in the next few days.” In an effort to speed passage, he agreed to forgo combining it with COVID-19 funding.
While more pandemic aid is sorely needed, he said, “We cannot afford delay in this vital war effort.” Biden said lawmakers should immediately turn their focus to pandemic relief after passing the Ukraine package. The House is expected to originate a new COVID-19 aid bill, which will likely up the funding beyond $10 billion senators negotiated last month.
Biden’s request included $16.4 billion for the Pentagon to deliver additional weapons, replenish U.S. stocks and support troop deployments in neighboring countries. The measure introduced Tuesday would provide an additional $3.7 billion in military aid after the DeLauro amendment is added, mainly for replenishment of U.S. stocks of equipment sent to Ukraine.
The House bill would also bolster U.S. Agency for International Development disaster relief accounts by nearly $3.7 billion for emergency food assistance and other humanitarian needs, according to a summary from House Appropriations Democrats. Another $310 million would be added to Biden’s request to support the reopening of the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv.
The Treasury Department would receive $52 million for “special agents and associated support to trace Russian financial activities,” according to the summary, including efforts to track cryptocurrency assets. That money wasn’t in the White House request.
Meanwhile, appropriators decided to cut to $900 million Biden’s $1.2 billion request to help the Department of Health and Human Services provide financial and medical aid to Ukrainian refugees arriving in the U.S. But they added an extra $54 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to provide medical screening.
Also gone from the House bill are provisions in Biden’s request that would have backed up to $21 billion in Treasury loans to the International Monetary Fund. Republicans objected, arguing the IMF wouldn’t be able to sufficiently police the use of loan funds.
And the measure no longer includes a Biden-backed $500 million initiative for crop insurance and loan marketing assistance designed to entice U.S. farmers to boost production of wheat and other crops to help offset global supply problems caused by the Ukraine war.
The initiative came under criticism Monday from lawmakers and farm groups who said the measure may do little good. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the Congressional Budget Office determined that the proposed higher loan assistance rates would be too costly.
And appropriators also decided to cut a Biden-proposed $100 million “Food for Progress” fund at USDA to provide food aid to countries in the Middle East and Africa.
The House bill would add the customary payment to the spouse of a deceased lawmaker, in this case Ann Garland Walton. Her husband was Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, the former dean of the House who died in March.
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