House passes $1.5 trillion spending plan without proposed $30 billion in COVID-19 relief funds

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a $1.5 trillion budget measure on Wednesday evening, just two days before the federal government was set to shut down. According to the New York Times, the bill includes a substantial assistance package for Ukraine as well as financing to keep the government functioning through September. However, Democrats cut $15.6 billion in COVID-19 funding amid bipartisan criticism.

The Biden administration claims that money for pandemic testing, vaccinations, treatments, and other attempts to prevent the spread of new COVID-19 variations are desperately needed. Officials for the administration originally said that they required $30 billion for pandemic operations. However, during talks with Republicans, that amount was reduced to $22.5 billion. Democrats then dropped the coronavirus money request, citing concerns that the entire package would collapse because of bickering over its contents.

While announcing the removal of the coronavirus funding, House Speaker Pelosi stated, “We must proceed with the omnibus today, which includes emergency funding for Ukraine and urgent funding to meet the needs of America’s families. It is heartbreaking to remove the COVID funding, and we must continue to fight for urgently needed COVID assistance, but unfortunately that will not be included in this bill.”

The plan contains $13.6 billion in aid for Ukraine, a 5.6% hike in overall defense funding totaling $782 billion, and a 6.7% increase in discretionary domestic spending for a total of $730 billion. Texas Representative Chip Roy explained that the bill also includes $575 million for “family planning,” $286 million for Title X funding to “keep the lights on at Planned Parenthood,” $32.5 million for the U.N. Population Fund, and $200 million for the “Gender Equity and Equality Action Fund.”

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