by JILLIAN SMITH, The National Desk
WASHINGTON (TND) — The Senate has passed a massive $1.5 trillion federal spending bill with more than $13 billion allocated for emergency aid in Ukraine but a new round of COVID relief funding did not make the cut.
The nearly $16 billion in funding — which would have supported ramping up vaccine supplies, treatments and testing — was scrapped from the government spending bill last minute Wednesday after both parties pushed back over how it would be funded.
The White House originally requested that the bill include $30 billion for COVID tests, vaccines and treatments so supplies don’t run out.
“We need this additional funding to meet the needs of the American public,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
But warning signs that additional relief funding wouldn’t be popular among Republicans came weeks ago.
In a letter to the White House last week, three dozen GOP senators asked how much of last year’s American Rescue Plan remains “unspent, unobligated, or undispersed” and how much the government has spent on vaccines and testing.
Click to read the GOP Letter To President Biden Concerning COVID Accountability
“What is unspent? If we do anything for COVID, we should first look at those dollars to make sure they’re repurposed to be able to spend for any COVID future expenses, not just continue to add more debt,” Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla.
Others say that some cities and states may not have needed more funding to begin with.
“We found that the 50 richest places across America received over $100 million in COVID relief funding,” said Adam Andrzejewski, CEO and founder of openthebooks.com. “They can’t argue that they needed the money but again, they’re actually taking the money. They’re not sending it back.”
To compromise, Democratic leaders made a deal with Republicans to offset some of the relief money with funds already allocated in the American Rescue Plan but Democrats representing areas that would be impacted by that move said the money they had been promised would be lost.
“These are investments that are essential and in the long run, end up saving taxpayer money, as well as, protecting the health, which is even more important, protecting the health of Americans,” said Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich.
In addition to government funding, the massive bill includes $13.6 billion in aid to Ukraine, which will go toward helping refugees and energy and cybersecurity efforts. The spending bill is now in the hands of the Senate, which is racing to pass it in order to avoid a government shutdown.