December 4, 2023

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Congress reaches deal on nearly $40 billion Ukraine package

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Congressional leaders struck a deal Monday to send $39.8 billion in military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine that could be taken up by the House as soon as Tuesday, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The deal, which is billions more than the $33 billion the White House initially requested, is slated for quick passage after Democrats agreed to drop a key priority: separating the Ukraine aid from roughly $10 billion in funding for the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Republican leaders had said they’d block the Ukraine funds if they were linked to COVID-19 appropriations.
  • It had become a major sticking point on Capitol Hill.

Timing: The concession was made after President Biden told Congress earlier in the day to separate the bills — emphasizing the urgency of passing the Ukraine package.

  • “We cannot afford delay in this vital war effort. Hence, I am prepared to accept that these two measures move separately so that the Ukrainian aid bill can get to my desk right away,” the president said.

Between the lines: The decision to separate the bills is a major hit for Democrats, who are concerned COVID-19 funding won’t pass without the incentive of tying it to the larger Ukraine proposal.

  • “We need both COVID and Ukraine,” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, told Politico. “We’re going to have real problems this fall with COVID, and it’s a mistake not to have both together. I really regret that.”

Another potential problem Democrats face with the COVID-19 relief is Republicans efforts to tie an amendment to the bill that would prevent the administration from rescinding Title 42 at the end of the month.

  • The fight over the amendment, which would prevent the White House from ending the Trump-era coronavirus immigration ban on May 23, has stalled the COVID-19 package for weeks.
  • There are currently two amendments being pushed on the Hill regarding Title 42 — a bipartisan bill proposed by Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), as well as one introduced by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
  • Cruz’s amendment goes much further, and calls for codifying the immigration ban. His amendment is likely to fail, given it has no Democratic support.

What’s next: Senate Minority Whip John Thune told reporters Monday evening he believes the coronavirus aide bill could pass next week.

  • He added that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has signaled he may hold a vote on the Title 42 amendment, CNN’s Manu Raju tweeted.


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