House passes spending bill that cuts $15.6B in pandemic aid

The House passed a $1.5 trillion federal spending package March 9 after pulling COVID-19 funding from the bill earlier that day, according to The New York Times.

The package, introduced right after midnight March 9, extends funding through the end of the fiscal year. Democratic leaders pulled $15.6 billion in emergency COVID-19 funding from the funding package after facing opposition within their own party, The Hill reported March 9. 

"Because of Republican insistence — and the resistance by a number of our Members to making those offsets — we will go back to the Rules Committee to remove COVID funding and accommodate the revised bill," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., wrote in a Dear Colleague letter March 9.

"We must proceed with the omnibus today, which includes emergency funding for Ukraine and urgent funding to meet the needs of America's families," Ms. Pelosi wrote. 

"It is heartbreaking to remove the COVID funding, and we must continue to fight for urgently needed COVID assistance," she continued, "but unfortunately that will not be included in this bill."

Democrats had initially suggested leaning on borrowed money for the new COVID-19 relief funds, adding to the budget deficit. Republicans opposed that idea, and Democratic negotiators proposed to offset the $15.6 billion with COVID-19 funding sent to states last year that had not yet been spent. 

Lawmakers from states facing the clawback threatened not to pass the omnibus unless the clawback was removed. 

Earlier this month, the White House requested from Congress $22.5 billion in supplemental COVID-19 relief funds. It's unclear when the House will again attempt to act on the administration's request.

The House-passed spending measure instead includes more than double what the Biden administration requested in emergency aid for Ukraine, sending about $6.5 billion to the Defense Department for military assistance and about $6.7 billion to help both refugees and those who remain in the country. The bill also includes reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act and affirmation that federal regulatory jurisdiction extends to vaping and synthetic tobacco.

If passed by the Senate, the funding would increase federal spending, with totals of $730 billion for domestic programs and $782 billion for the military.  

 

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