WASHINGTON — With just five days left until government funding expires, Democrats and Republicans are trying to reach a deal on $1.5 trillion in federal spending plus billions more in government aid. Ukraine and COVID-19 aid.
US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer wrote Monday morning that Democrats had made “a reasonable overall offer to Republicans” and that he hoped the two political parties would reach an agreement before a bill interim on government funding expires Friday at midnight.
“We worked on a bipartisan, bicameral basis over the weekend to complete work on an omnibus package that includes strong assistance to the people and government of Ukraine and additional funding to ensure our country is ready if and when next variant COVID hits,” Schumer wrote.
The Biden administration last week demand Congress is providing $10 billion in military, economic and humanitarian aid to Ukraine amid the ongoing war, as well as $22.5 billion in coronavirus relief funding.
This threw a bit of a twist into the ongoing negotiations to fund the government.
Democrats and Republicans have been working for months to reach a final agreement on the government’s dozen annual funding bills before a temporary spending measure expires on Friday.
Those talks were fragile enough without both sides trying to figure out what is needed for the Ukrainian war effort as circumstances on the ground change from hour to hour.
Additional funding for coronavirus relief also faces challenges.
Thirty-six Senate Republicans wrote a letter to President Joe Biden last week, citing concerns about fraud and asking for “a full account” of how the US government has spent the roughly $6 trillion in COVID-19 aid that Congress has since approved March 2020.
The group specifically asked the White House to detail how much of the $350 billion in state and local aid Democrats provided in their $1.9 trillion COVID-19 package in March 2021 has been used. for vaccines and testing.
According to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget trackerabout $244 billion of the $350 billion earmarked for state and local governments has been spent.
Local, state and tribal governments were able to use the funding for a variety of pandemic-related activities, including public health; premiums for essential workers; to replace income lost due to the pandemic; and investing in water, sewer or broadband infrastructure.
The GOP Senate group did not rule out supporting billions more in coronavirus aid, but said “it must be an urgent priority that the trillions of taxpayer dollars already affected are spent effectively.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote to her conference on Sunday to say “Congress intends to pass this emergency funding this week.” She also said the House was working on separate legislation to deal with the ongoing Russian war in Ukraine.
The California Democrat said the bill would “further insulate Russia from the global economy” by banning imports of Russian petroleum and energy products, abrogating normal trade relations with Russia, allowing the White House to raising tariffs on Russian imports and taking the first step to ending Russia’s access to the World Trade Organization.
The White House, so far, has been reluctant to block Russian oil imports, fearing it will raise gasoline prices even more than they already have.
Pelosi wrote in his letter that “the United States does not need to choose between our democratic values and our economic interests.”
“The administration and Congress remain focused on reducing higher energy costs for American families and our partners resulting from Putin’s invasion,” she continued.
Strong statements from Schumer and Pelosi followed a Zoom call that brought together hundreds of US lawmakers with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy over the weekend.
According to a person on the call, Schumer told Zelenskyy that he, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and several other lawmakers were working “in a bipartisan fashion to get all the help the administration has asked for on the Ukrainian people. Together, we will quickly get this over $10 billion in economic, humanitarian and security assistance to the people of Ukraine. »