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WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic leaders separated $15.6 billion in funding for dealing with the COVID pandemic from a government spending bill on Wednesday, clearing the way for House debate and passage of the bill that is anchored by aid for Ukraine and European allies.
Watch the event in the player above.
“When you’re in a negotiation, you do not weaken at the end,” Pelosi told reporters during a news briefing. “We had to be very strong to insist upon having the Covid funding.”
Pelosi said the COVID-19 funding was intended for early intervention and helping other nations fight COVID as part of an effort to stop the global spread of the virus. Dropping it was necessary to secure the support of Senate Republicans needed to avoid a filibuster.
While Democrats had insisted on including the pandemic money in the sprawling, bipartisan legislation, Republicans demanded it be paid for with cuts elsewhere.
“It’s been very obvious for a long time now that Republicans in the senate did not want to do Covid funding. If we did it, it would have to be paid for by state and local government,” Pelosi said.
After hours of talks, Pelosi relented to Democratic lawmakers who were refusing to let the measure move forward unless the earlier funds their states were supposed to receive were protected.
The funds to be used had been previously allocated to state and local governments for dealing with the pandemic. Pelosi said the new COVID-19 bill could be voted on as soon as Wednesday.
The money countering the Russian blitzkrieg that’s devastated parts of Ukraine and triggered that continent’s biggest refugee exodus since World War II ensured that the overall bill would ultimately pass with robust support from both parties. President Joe Biden requested $10 billion for the military, humanitarian and economic aid last week, and backing in Congress was so staunch that the figure grew to $13.6 billion in just days.
Party leaders planned to whip the 2,741-page measure through the House on Wednesday and the Senate by week’s end, though that chamber’s exact timing was unclear.
Lawmakers were spurred to act quickly by the urgency of helping Ukraine before Russia’s military might makes it too late. They also faced a Friday deadline to approve the government-wide spending measure or face a weekend election-year federal shutdown. As a backstop against delays, the House planned to pass a bill Wednesday keeping agencies afloat through March 15.
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