US Senate avoids government shutdown, passes $1.5 trillion funding bill with Ukraine aid

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., hosts a meeting in Washington, March 2. Democrats and Republicans in the Senate worked on Thursday to reach a deal to quickly pass a $1.5 trillion bill providing emergency aid to Ukraine and funding the government.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., hosts a meeting in Washington, March 2. Democrats and Republicans in the Senate worked on Thursday to reach a deal to quickly pass a $1.5 trillion bill providing emergency aid to Ukraine and funding the government. (Jonathan Ernst, Reuters)

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate on Thursday approved legislation providing $1.5 trillion to fund the federal government through Sept. 30 and to allocate $13.6 billion to aid Ukraine.

The 2,700-page bill passed in a bipartisan 68-31 vote, one day after the House of Representatives approved the package.

Utah Sen. Mitt Romney issued a statement after voting against the bill.

"We have got to end the absurd process of jamming through last-minute, trillion-dollar, thousand-page spending bills without meaningful input from more than a handful of members," Romney said. "Forcing us to swallow the bad to get the good is concerning, unsustainable, and no way to govern over the long-term. While I strongly support providing Ukrainians desperately needed aid, I ultimately could not support the rest of this bloated spending bill for the aforementioned reasons."

Romney sent the Biden administration a terse message earlier Thursday over shutting down a Polish proposal to provide Ukraine with MiG fighter jets: "Get them the aircraft."

Utah Sen. Mike Lee also opposed the bill after the Senate defeated an amendment he proposed to end federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates, 50-49.

President Joe Biden is expected to sign the bill into law, averting agency shutdowns ahead of the midnight Friday deadline when existing U.S. government funds expire.

"We're keeping our promises to support Ukraine as they fight for their lives against the evil Vladimir Putin," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said, referring to Russia's president who has orchestrated a massive attack against its neighbor.

The aid for Ukraine is designed to finance ammunition and other military supplies, as well as humanitarian support.

The legislation's passage follows months of negotiations over the federal government's funding and therefore policy priorities.

It also comes as lawmakers jostle to show support of Ukraine in its battle against Russian forces, with Democrats and Republicans saying the Biden administration must do more to help Kyiv.

On Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters that this Ukraine aid package likely would be followed by additional measures to help Kyiv battle Russia and rebuild from the destruction brought by Moscow's attacks.

On Thursday, ahead of the vote, Republican senators, including Romney, called for the Biden administration to send Ukraine the fighter jets the country's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had requested. The Biden administration has argued that providing combat aircraft, even if they were being supplied by Poland, would dangerously escalate the conflict.


The House also approved a bill that banned imports of Russian oil and called for reviewing Russia's participation in some international trade programs, including the World Trade Organization.

That measure's fate in the Senate was unclear. Biden is expected to call on Friday for an end of normal trade relations with Russia.

Besides providing money for ammunition and other military supplies and humanitarian aid for Ukrainians, the legislation funds regular U.S. military programs and an array of nondefense operations through Sept. 30, including money for infrastructure projects authorized by an earlier bipartisan package.

Sen. Richard Shelby, the senior Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, applauded the spending bill for increasing defense spending by nearly $42 billion over last year to total $782 billion.

Without passage of this legislation by midnight Friday, federal agencies would have had to begin laying off workers and suspending government programs deemed non-essential.

The Senate also passed a stop-gap bill extending existing federal funding through Tuesday so that congressional clerks have the time they need to process the sprawling "omnibus" legislation — a chore that could go beyond Friday's midnight deadline.

That ensures no interruption in government services before Biden receives the omnibus bill from Congress for signing into law.

Contributing: David Morgan

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