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Democrats staged a clash with the GOP by equating Covid aid with Ukraine aid

House Democrats plan to introduce a massive bill on Tuesday that would extend government funding through the end of September — and include about $10 billion to help shore up Ukraine, according to two Democratic sources. But they are staging a clash with Republicans over which Covid relief money should be included in the broad scheme.

Negotiations will take place this week to try to reach an agreement to pass the bill before the March 11 deadline, when government funding will expire. Lawmakers are expected to avoid a shutdown, but if a massive funding package doesn’t move quickly, they could be forced to pass another short-term stopgap funding measure.

A Democratic source familiar with the matter said Sunday that Covid relief money would be included in the package – a move that would challenge Republicans to block a package that includes money for Ukraine. While aid to Ukraine is an urgent priority with bipartisan support, Republicans are widely opposed to more Covid relief money, arguing that a full accounting of the funds already allocated is needed before it goes away. there are new expenses.

The crisis in Ukraine has raised serious concerns on both sides, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told U.S. lawmakers on Saturday that his country urgently needs more help from the United States. US officials on Sunday identified three areas in which the United States could soon take action to try to deal with the escalating Russian war: a ban on Russian oil imports, a declaration of war crimes against Russia and assistance to facilitate the delivery of Polish fighter jets to Ukraine.
The White House has asked lawmakers to approve $10 billion in lethal and humanitarian aid for Ukraine as part of a $32.5 billion emergency funding request sent to Capitol Hill.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi highlighted the administration’s $10 billion request in a letter to House Democrats on Sunday night, saying the chamber intended to pass the emergency funding. Pelosi added that the House was also pursuing legislation to “ban the import of Russian petroleum and energy products into the United States, abrogate normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus, and take the first step in denying Russia the access to the WTO (World Trade Organization).

But Democrats are also focused on securing more funding to respond to the ongoing pandemic.

The White House has asked for $22.5 billion in ‘immediate needs’ related to the pandemic response, including funding for treatments, tests and vaccines, as well as money for virus protection work. future variants and efforts to vaccinate more people around the world.

Republicans are already pushing back against the administration’s demand for more Covid money.

Senate GOP Whip John Thune said Thursday there was strong opposition in the GOP conference to the request for $22.5 billion in additional Covid funding.

“I think there’s just a general belief that there’s still a lot of money going around,” said Thune, from South Dakota. “And that before we post more, we need to report on that. And I think that even includes people who might otherwise be inclined to support some of the things that would be included in it.”

For the bill to pass the Senate and avoid a shutdown before the March 11 deadline, all 100 senators must agree to hold a final vote. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Sunday he wants the bill passed by his chamber by Thursday.

“Negotiations on the spending bill are going very, very well,” Schumer, a New York Democrat, said Sunday, adding that he was “hopeful and optimistic” that the chamber could pass the spending bill. spending, including aid to Ukraine by Thursday.

But it’s unclear if they’ll push the bill through by then, given that many Republicans oppose putting Covid relief money in the package, while other Republicans are demanding enough time to review the sprawling measure once it is introduced.

In a letter to Schumer last week, a group of Republican senators led by Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Rick Scott of Florida raised concerns about inflation and the national debt and called for “a comprehensive review” of a bill finalized by the Congressional Budget Office as well as the “proper time” for senators to consider a finished brief.

Negotiations on the voting schedule are expected to begin later this week.

If there’s no agreement in the Senate to hold a final vote, or if Democrats don’t have 60 votes to overcome a filibuster, they may have to strike another deal to pass a short-term stopgap. to avoid a stoppage.

CNN’s Ali Zaslav, Phil Mattingly, Veronica Sctracqualursi, Pooja Salhotra contributed to this report.


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