Senate passes interim bill to avoid government shutdown and help Ukraine

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate on Thursday passed a short-term spending bill that would avoid a partial government shutdown when the current fiscal year ends at midnight Friday and provide another injection of military and economic aid to Ukraine as it seeks to fend off Russia’s brutality. invasion.

The bill funds the federal government until Dec. 16 and gives lawmakers more time to agree on legislation setting spending levels for fiscal year 2023. It passed by a vote of 72 to 25 and is now before the House for consideration.

As has become routine, lawmakers waited until the final hours before the closing deadline to act. But there was little doubt that a bill to fund the government would pass, especially after Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin agreed to drop provisions to streamline the licensing process for energy projects and give the green light for pipeline approval in his home state of West Virginia. These provisions had drawn opposition from both sides of the political aisle.

Yet the bill only postpones for a few months the maneuvers that will be needed after the midterm elections to pass a massive government funding package, as negotiators will have to iron out their differences over spending on burning issues such as abortion, border security and climate change.

The bill approved Thursday, with some exceptions, keeps federal agency spending at current levels through mid-December. The most notable of these exceptions is the more than $12 billion that will be provided to help Ukraine, in addition to the more than $50 billion provided for in two previous bills. The money will be used to provide training, equipment and logistical support to the Ukrainian military, to help the Ukrainian government provide basic services to its citizens and to replenish US weapons systems and ammunition.

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“Seven months into the conflict, it is clear that American aid has greatly helped the people of Ukraine to resist the vicious and vicious aggression of (Russian President Vladimir) Putin,” the Senate Majority Leader said. , Chuck Schumer, D.N.Y. “But the fight is far from over.”

Republican Leader Mitch McConnell also voiced support for Ukraine aid, while urging the Biden administration to get it out faster.

“Helping Ukraine is not a token feel-good gesture,” McConnell said. “It’s literally an investment in our own national security and that of our allies.”

Disaster relief was attached to the stopgap bill, including $2.5 billion to help New Mexico communities recover from the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon fire, the largest wildfire in the world. state history; $2 billion for a block grant program that helps with the economic recovery of communities impacted by recent disasters and $20 million for previously authorized water and wastewater infrastructure improvements for Jackson, Mississippi.

An additional $18.8 billion was included for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to respond to current and future disasters, such as Hurricane Ian, which hit Florida on Wednesday.

The bill would provide an additional $1 billion for a program that helps low-income households heat their homes. And he would transfer $3 billion from a Pentagon aid package to the State Department for continued Afghan resettlement operations.

Lawmakers also included a reauthorization of the Food and Drug Administration’s user fee agreements for five years, which ensures the agency can continue critical product safety reviews and will not need to issue pink slips for thousands of employees working on drug and medical device applications.

One thing missing from the bill is the billions of dollars in additional funding that President Joe Biden has sought to help with the response to COVID-19 and monkeypox. Republicans have criticized health spending as wasteful. The White House said the money would have been used to accelerate research and development of vaccines and therapies, prepare for future variants of COVID and support the global response.

Passing the bill is the last must-do item on lawmakers’ list before returning to their home states and districts to campaign ahead of midterm elections that will determine which party will control the House and Senate. over the next two years. Lawmakers were eager to leave Washington and focus on campaigning without the specter of a shutdown.

“The last thing the American people need right now is an unnecessary government shutdown,” Schumer said.

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