House passes $1.5 trillion spending plan: Ukraine aid in, COVID funding out

It received bipartisan support and passed 361-69.

March 9, 2022, 10:09 PM

The House on Wednesday approved measures to ban Russian energy products, provide billions in assistance to Ukraine and fund the government through the fall -- but only after Democratic infighting forced party leaders to remove more than $15 billion in COVID aid from the package.

With the federal government set to run out of funding as soon as Friday, the $1.5 trillion package will avert a shutdown through September, while also adding billions in humanitarian and military aid to Ukraine after Russia's invasion. The House also passed a four-day stopgap measure to give the Senate time to approve the larger package.

The bill, which includes $13.6 billion in humanitarian and defense aid to Ukraine, received bipartisan support and passed 361-69. The House approved the non-defense portion of the package 260-171, with one member voting present. Later, the House approved a proposal to ban Russian oil and energy imports in a 414-17 vote.

The new aid to Ukraine, billions more than initially requested by the Biden administration, is evenly split between humanitarian and military aid, includes millions to help feed and resettle displaced Ukrainians and nearly $2 billion in potential economic relief for Ukraine and neighboring countries.

PHOTO: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks during her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill March 9, 2022.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks during her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill March 9, 2022.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Of the $6.5 billion in emergency defense assistance, the package directs $3.5 billion to help arm Ukrainians and allied forces in the region with U.S. military stocks, and another $3 billion to support the deployment of additional U.S. troops and materials to Europe.

In a setback for the Biden administration's COVID strategy, House Democrats were forced to scrap $15 billion in COVID-19 funding for therapeutics and research in the spending package after an internal revolt from members who objected to repurposing unspent relief Congress had previously approved for states to use at their discretion.

Pelosi, who called the removal of COVID-19 funds "heartbreaking," told reporters the change was necessary in order for the package to clear the Senate, where a 50-50 split forces Democrats to rely on the votes of at least 10 Republicans.

"We're in a legislative process. We have a deadline. We're keeping government open," she said. "We had a lively negotiation."

"Some of the members are disappointed," Pelosi continued. "'I didn't get what I wanted in the bill' -- you're telling Noah about the flood."

Pelosi, however, said the House would take up a standalone COVID funding bill Wednesday with a plan for the bill to be debated and voted on next week.

PHOTO: The U.S. Capitol stands in Washington, March 9, 2022.
The U.S. Capitol stands in Washington, March 9, 2022.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

Separately, the chamber also approved a measure to ban the import of Russian oil and energy products one day after President Joe Biden signed an executive order to the same effect.

The bill would also direct the administration to consider taking steps to suspend Russia from the World Trade Organization and expand on language in the Magnitsky Act -- a sanctions law approved by Congress in 2012 -- to allow the Biden administration to impose additional sanctions on Russian officials and individuals linked to the war in Ukraine.

Democratic leaders made changes to that legislation -- initially crafted with Republicans in both chambers -- after the White House raised concerns that it would make it harder for Biden to ease sanctions on Russia if the Kremlin deescalated in Ukraine.

Another provision to suspend trade relations with Russia and Belarus was adjusted at the White House's request, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters Wednesday.

"It was taken out because the president rightfully wants to talk to our allies about that action, which I think was appropriate," he said.

Democrats were expected to pass the measures earlier than expected Wednesday night, allowing them to salvage their caucus retreat in Philadelphia that was initially slated to begin Wednesday afternoon.

Biden will address the caucus in Philadelphia on Friday.

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