Senate approves huge budget bill for Ukraine aid

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The $13.6 billion humanitarian and military aid package for besieged Ukraine, and its European allies was approved by the final Congress. It rides on a federal spending bill that is five months late but loaded full of political rewards for both sides.

The $1.5 Trillion overall legislation was approved by the Senate late Thursday night by a 68-31 bipartisan vote. While Republicans and Democrats have fought this election year over rising inflation, energy policy, and lingering Pandemic Restrictions, they have rallied behind Ukraine’s aid. Many voters find their resilience inspiring.

Just before the vote, Chuck Schumer, D.N.Y., Senate Majority Leader, stated that “we promised the Ukrainian people that they would not go at the fight against Putin alone.” “And once this funding is passed in a brief time, we will keep that commitment.”

The House approved the compromise bill quickly Wednesday. The signature of President Joe Biden was guaranteed.

Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary, stated that approval “proves once again that members of both sides can come together and deliver results for American people” — something which has been rare in recent years.

She also urged lawmakers to restore money “urgently necessary to prevent severe disruptions in our COVID response.” After rank-and-file legislators refused to accept cuts to aid states, the House dropped Wednesday’s $15.6billion measure.

The $13.6 billion was spent on arming and equipping Ukraine, as well as the Pentagon’s costs to send U.S. troops into other Eastern European countries that aren’t too concerned about the conflict next door. The rest was used for humanitarian and economic assistance, strengthening the defenses of regional allies and protecting their energy supplies as well as cybersecurity.

Republicans strongly supported this spending. They criticized Biden’s timidity in moving forward, as was the unresolved conflict with Poland about how it could send MiG fighter jets from Ukraine to its pilots.

“This administration’s instinct is to wait for international pressure to overwhelm them and then flinch. Then, we take action only when the best time has passed,” stated Mitch McConnell (R-Ky).

White House aides informed Congress last month that Biden requested $6.4 billion to stop Russia’s invasion. Biden ended up asking for $10 billion. Congress was eager to increase that amount to $13.6 billion in just a few days.

Democrats received a $1.5 trillion bill that included this aid, which represented a nearly 7% increase in domestic initiatives. This was slightly less than half of the package. This resulted in increased spending on schools, housing and child care, as well as biomedical research grants, community law enforcement grants, and feeding programs.

This measure directs money to historically black colleges and minority communities, renews efforts to prevent domestic violence against women, and requires infrastructure operators report serious hacking incidents directly to federal authorities.

Republicans claim a nearly 6% increase in defense funding, which includes money for 85 F-35 fighter jets, 13 new Navy vessels, upgrades for 90 Abrams tanks, and school improvements at military bases. On top of the emergency funding, there would be $300 million more for Ukraine and $300 millions for other Eastern European allies.

The GOP won the right to keep decades-old federal restrictions that prohibited them from using federal money for almost all abortions. They forced Biden to give up his 2022 budget goals, which were politically impossible from the beginning. These included 16% domestic program growth and defense growth of less that 2%.

Many lawmakers from both parties had an incentive to support the spending package, which they have not had since 2010. Democratic leaders restored the practice of earmarks for local projects that were dropped by Congress in 2011. This was because voters considered it a lazy waste of taxpayers’ money.

This was the practice that was restored. The bill included thousands of projects, with a cost of several billion dollars. The numbers were higher years ago.

The Senate rejected an amendment from Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) to remove the earmarks, confirming the popularity of the practice. Braun stated that they weighed 5 pounds and contained 367 pages. It also showed “the swamp rising again.” According to Braun, the amendment was defeated by a 64-35 bipartisan margin.

Since the beginning of the new fiscal year, Oct. 1, government agencies have been operating under lower spending levels than last year because Congress had not approved any bills to update those amounts.

After months of negotiations, the compromise spending agreement was reached this week after much negotiation. Biden signed the $1.5 trillion bill, the latest temporary spending measure, Friday night to avoid a shutdown. This was impossible because neither side had any reason to start a fight.

Biden was sent a separate bill by the Senate to finance agencies. This is in case the Senate has to reprint and proofread the long measure. Biden signed the measure Friday.

Since Oct. 1, a lot has happened, many of it difficult for Democrats. Biden’s polling numbers are down, the high inflation has persisted, and gasoline prices have risen. Omicron’s decline has made voters impatient to eliminate pandemic restrictions. Biden’s marquee environmental and social bill has collapsed and Russia invaded Ukraine.

With this election-year context, Democrats saw the $1.5 Trillion package as a chance to win.

Democrats currently control both Congress and the White House. They could lose their Senate and House majorities in November’s midterm election. This could mean that they could not win their policy priorities for many years. The last time they had both branches under their control was 2010.

Both parties have shown a relaxed attitude towards gargantuan federal deficits, which has partly enabled the largesse.

The $2.8 trillion pandemic-driven shortfall last year was the second largest ever. Biden suggested that the $1.8 trillion gap this year would be a success because it would be $1 billion smaller, which would be the largest reduction in history.