House Democrats plan to introduce a massive bill as soon as Tuesday that would extend government funding through the end of September — and include roughly $10 billion to help bolster Ukraine, according to two Democratic sources. But they are setting up a clash with Republicans over Covid relief money expected to be included in the sweeping package.
One Democratic source familiar with the matter said Sunday that Covid relief money will be included in the package — a move that would dare Republicans to block a package that includes money for Ukraine. While aid to Ukraine is a pressing priority with bipartisan support, Republicans are widely opposed to more Covid relief money, arguing that a full accounting of already allocated funds is needed before there’s any further spending.
But Democrats are also focused on securing more funding to respond to the ongoing pandemic.
Republicans are already pushing back against the administration’s request for more Covid money.
Senate GOP Whip John Thune said on Thursday that there’s strong opposition within the GOP conference to the request for $22.5 billion in additional Covid funds.
“I think there’s just a general belief that there’s a lot of money out there still floating around,” Thune, of South Dakota, said. “And that before we put more out, we need to get an accounting for that. And I think that includes even people who otherwise might be inclined to support some of the things that would be included there.”
In order for the bill to pass the Senate and avoid a shutdown before the March 11 deadline, all 100 senators must consent to set up a final vote. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Sunday he wants to see the bill pass his chamber by Thursday.
“The negotiations on the spending bill are going very, very well,” Schumer, a New York Democrat, said Sunday, adding that he’s “hopeful and optimistic” the chamber can pass the spending bill including Ukraine aid by Thursday.
But it’s unclear if they will get the bill passed by then given that many Republicans are opposed to adding Covid relief money into the package, while other Republicans are demanding adequate time to review the sprawling measure once it is introduced.
In a letter to Schumer last week, a group of Republican senators led by Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Rick Scott of Florida raised concerns about inflation and the national debt and called for “a comprehensive review” of a finalized bill by the Congressional Budget Office as well as “appropriate time” for senators to review a finished package.
Negotiations over the timing of votes are expected to begin later this week.
If there’s no deal in the Senate to set up a final vote, or if Democrats lack 60 votes to overcome a filibuster, then they may have to cut yet another deal to pass a short-term stopgap to avoid a shutdown.
CNN’s Ali Zaslav, Phil Mattingly, Veronica Sctracqualursi, Pooja Salhotra contributed to this report.