The House of Representatives approved a bipartisan $1.5 trillion spending bill was stripped of funds originally earmarked to fight the coronavirus pandemic while sending billions of dollars of aid to Ukraine.
The passage of the measure marked the first time Democrats were able to largely shape a spending package during President Joe Biden’s term, but the White House was incensed that the House majority dropped a $15.6 billion pandemic aid package to save the bill.
The axed funding was meant to bolster vaccine supply, treatments and tests at home and abroad, but rank-and-file Democrats balked at GOP demands that cuts to state aid be used to cover the initiatives Wednesday.
“It is heartbreaking to remove the Covid funding, and we must continue to fight for urgently needed Covid assistance, but unfortunately that will not be included in this bill,” House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi wrote in an afternoon memo to caucus members.
A vote on the COVID-19 measure outside the spending bill was expected to face an uphill battle in the deadlocked Senate, leaving the future of the Biden administration’s pandemic response uncertain.
Meanwhile, a $14 billion aid package to war-torn Ukraine enjoyed strong support across the aisle.
The Ukraine package allocated $6.5 billion to send US troops and weapons to the war’s perimeter and another $7 billion in financial aid to refugees and allies.
The House approved the bill in two votes, voting 361-69 to authorize increased defense spending, and passing the rest 260-171 with most Republicans opposed.
In what one Republican member called a “reasonable compromise,” GOP representatives championed a 6 percent increase on Pentagon funds, while Democrats won a 7 percent increase for domestic priorities like education, child care and climate spending.
The bill was expected to be passed by the Senate and sent to President Joe Biden’s desk by week’s end.