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: Ukraine, disaster aid poised to pass Congress in stopgap funding bill

The Senate is set to pass a stopgap government funding bill and act to avert a government shutdown as the fiscal year ends on Friday.

With Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s support, now that the bill is no longer linked to West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin’s permitting reform proposal, the continuing resolution is expected to receive bipartisan support.

Now read: Congress faces Friday deadline for averting government shutdown, as senators grapple with Manchin’s permitting plan

McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said Wednesday that he is looking “forward to the bipartisan government funding bill coming to the floor this week” and hopes that Democrats will “let actual, robust permitting reform become law someday soon.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said Thursday morning that he is hopeful the bill can be passed today, though no time agreement for the vote has been reached. A House vote would likely follow on Friday.

“With a little more good faith negotiation between Democrats and Republicans I’m hopeful today is the day,” Schumer said.

After dropping Manchin’s plan to expedite the permitting process for energy projects, Republican senators largely expressed support for the stopgap measure. It passed a procedural vote 72-33 to advance on Tuesday, with the “no” votes all from Republicans.

Notably, three things the Biden administration requested were left out of the bill: $22 billion for COVID-19 aid, $4 billion to fight monkeypox and $1.5 billion for emergency uranium purchases to decrease reliance on Russia.

However, there’s a lot that made it in.

In addition to funding the government through Dec. 16, the continuing resolution also includes money for Ukraine, Afghan refugees and natural disasters.

The legislation includes $12.4 billion for Ukraine — more than the $11.7 billion requested by the White House — and includes $35 million to respond to potential nuclear and radiological events.

The bill allows for the transfer of up to $3 billion from the Pentagon’s overseas humanitarian account to support Afghan refugee resettlement efforts, and allocates $15.3 million for “investigative activities associated with Afghan resettlement operations.” The bill does not include a pathway for Afghan refugees to become permanent residents, something which a group of veterans had been calling for.

The continuing resolution also includes $2 billion for communities impacted by natural disasters, as well as $2.5 billion in funding for recovery efforts from the fires in Mexico earlier this year. Another $20 million was allocated specifically to combating the water crisis in Jackson, Mississippi.

An additional $1 billion is included for funding the Low Income Home Energy Assistance program, which helps low income households shoulder the cost of high energy bills. 

“This bill will keep vital services running for the American people through December 16 and provide critical support for Ukraine while we negotiate a bipartisan, bicameral omnibus appropriations bill,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, said in a statement. “Enacting full year appropriations bills into law must be our top priority.  In a time of rising inflation, when everything costs more — energy, food, fuel, housing — we must respond accordingly.  Running on autopilot after December would be irresponsible.”  

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