US Congress unveils temporary bill to avoid lockdown and help Ukraine

US Congress unveils temporary bill to avoid lockdown and help Ukraine

Written by Richard Kwan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Senate will hold an initial vote on a temporary spending measure on Tuesday to keep federal agencies running through this weekend, while Congress continues to negotiate bills to fund the government through the next fiscal year.

Democrats led by President Joe Biden control both houses of Congress and are expected to avoid an embarrassing partial government shutdown just six weeks before the November 8 midterm elections, when control of Congress is at stake.

The bill, which will extend overall government funding through December 16, calls for $12.3 billion in new money to help Ukraine fend off the Russian invasion, Rosa DeLauro, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said in a statement.

This includes new military and economic aid. In addition, the measure authorizes Biden to direct a drawdown of up to $3.7 billion to transfer surplus weapons from US stockpiles to Ukraine.

In early September, Biden requested $11.7 billion in military and economic aid.

Amid reports of Russian forces threatening the safety of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s hint that he might use nuclear weapons against Ukraine, the legislation would allocate $35 million “to prepare for and respond to potential nuclear and radiological accidents in Ukraine,” according to the bill summary.

Congress has resorted to this type of temporary spending bill at the last minute in 43 out of the past 46 years because it has failed to approve full-year appropriations in time for the October 1 start of the federal fiscal year, according to a government study. .

A procedural vote in the Senate on Tuesday night is designed to speed up action once Democrats and Republicans finalize the legislation.

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Mansion barrier permit

The outcome of the first vote was unclear due to the disagreement over the add-on by Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, who lobbied for the inclusion of an unrelated measure to speed up the process of government allowing energy projects.

The proposed legislation includes allowing reform provisions and directing $250 million from the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act to “improve and expedite reviews of selected projects.”

Politico reports that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell urged his fellow Republicans to vote against the temporary funding bill because of the Manchin clause. An aide to McConnell did not respond to requests for comment.

This is also opposed by some Democrats and environmentalists, fearing that it will lead to the further development of fossil fuel projects at a time when the effects of climate change are accelerating from carbon emissions.

While Republicans typically favor faster government reviews of fossil fuel projects, they have been furious with Manchin since he helped Democrats pass a bill this summer to tackle climate change and cut some health care costs.

“This is a positive movement. I hope my friends view it that way,” Manchin said in an interview with CNN, referring to the inclusion of his reforms in the Temporary Funding Act.

But Senator Richard Shelby, the ranking Republican member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said in a statement, “If Democrats insist on the inclusion of allowing reform, I would oppose ‘introducing this temporary funding bill’.”

The spending bill is still expected to be exceeded

Even if Tuesday’s procedural vote fails, House and Senate leaders are expected to change their stance to pass the spending bill immediately by the Friday midnight deadline.

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That’s when government agencies ran out of money as Saturday began the new fiscal year.

The invoice summary also showed that included is a five-year renewal of FDA user fees that are charged to drug and medical device companies to review their products and determine if they are safe and effective.

The tax law expires on Friday.

New funding for the coronavirus aid and monkeypox vaccines that Democrats sought were not included in the legislation. DeLauro said it would continue to push for such funding.

With cold winter weather looming across the United States, the legislation is providing an additional $1 billion for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program “to help address the pressure on the pocketbooks of low-income families due to inflation,” DeLauro said.

The last time Congress allowed the funding to be revoked was in December 2018, when Democrats held back then-President Donald Trump’s payment for the US-Mexico border wall. After a record 35-day stalemate and partial government shutdown, Trump found ways to circumvent Congress somewhat, but the wall was never completed.

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