WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Tuesday signed a bill providing $13.6 billion in additional military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine as part of a $1.5 trillion public spending measure. dollars that omits the COVID-19 aid the White House urgently needs.
COVID-related spending has been a casualty of negotiations over the government’s larger bill. The White House had asked for $22.5 billion for vaccines and treatments, but that amount was reduced in talks to $15.6 billion and eventually dropped altogether as grassroots Democrats rebelled against the proposed cuts in state aid to pay for new spending.
“We have made tremendous progress in our fight against COVID-19 but our job is not done,” Biden tweeted on Tuesday. “We need Congress to immediately provide $22.5 billion in emergency funding to support our nation’s response to COVID-19.”
During a Tuesday call with governors, White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients stressed the “serious implications” the lack of additional funding would have on the nation’s response, including federal support for states, according to an administration official.
The White House says that without additional funding, the federal government will stop accepting new applications next week for treatment of uninsured people for COVID-19 and that state funding for life-saving monoclonal antibody treatments will be reduced by 30% to extend their supply. The administration says it also needs more money to buy more antiviral pills and prophylactic treatments for the immunocompromised, as well as to buy more vaccine doses in case regulators recommend additional booster shots. or a variant-specific callback, if applicable.
“With the increase in cases overseas, scientific and medical experts have made it clear that over the next two months there may also be an increase in COVID 19 cases here in the United States,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki. “Waiting to provide funding until we are in a worse situation, but the virus will be too late. We need funding now.
The $1.5 trillion bill to fund the government for the current year through September 30 is enacted five months late. But the money earmarked for Ukraine to fight Russia’s invasion has become a bipartisan rallying point for the measure as Congress has urged Biden to take more aggressive action against Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Putin’s aggression against Ukraine has united people across America, united our two parties in Congress, and united the freedom-loving world,” Biden said.
About half of the $13.6 billion would arm Ukraine and cover Pentagon costs for sending US troops to other Eastern European countries that could see the war spread beyond their borders. Much of the rest is earmarked for humanitarian and economic aid, bolstering the defenses of regional allies, and protecting their energy supplies and cybersecurity needs.
The government’s $1.5 trillion spending bill includes an increase of nearly 7% for national initiatives, with bolstered spending on schools, housing, childcare, renewable energy, biomedical research , community law enforcement grants and feeding programs. It is also disbursing money to minority communities and historically black colleges, renewing efforts to prevent domestic violence against women, and requiring infrastructure operators to report serious hacking incidents to federal authorities.
Republicans secured a nearly 6% raise for the defense and prevailed by retaining decades-old restrictions against using federal money to pay for nearly all abortions.