The White House has a big ask for Congress in the lame duck session: $48 billion for Ukraine and for fighting a likely winter surge of COVID-19 infections. The funding needs to happen before the House gets turned over to the Republican maniacs in the new session, which is almost certain to happen.
Likely new Speaker Kevin McCarthy has threatened future U.S. support for Ukraine, telling Punchbowl News ahead of the election that “I think people are gonna be sitting in a recession, and they’re not going to write a blank check to Ukraine.”
“Ukraine is important, but at the same time, it can’t be the only thing [the Biden administration does] and it can’t be a blank check.” With a long hard winter slog ahead for both Ukraine and Russia, now is not the time to let up. Biden’s new request reflects that necessity, with $37.7 billion for Ukraine; $21.7 billion for new and replacement military equipment, and $14.5 for humanitarian and budget support. In addition to this request, the administration is asking for lend-lease authority to send about $7 billion worth of weapons.
The White House is also asking, again, for $8.25 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services to continue dealing with COVID-19, which is like to resurge this winter. That would provide vaccines and treatments as well as fund the development of new measures, a critical component since the coronavirus is so fast to mutate, and research into long COVID. The funding request also includes $1 billion for global vaccination projects.
There should be another request on the way for disaster relief for hurricane and wildfire recovery, but the administration hasn’t set a figure for that yet.
Both Ukraine and COVID are likely to be a fight with Republicans, particularly COVID-19, which the GOP has practically made a platform out of denying. “We’ve been very careful to focus this request on the needs we have immediately,” a White House official told Politico, acknowledging that “some conditions have changed both on the ground and with Congress as we’ve made our case for these resources.”
“We have repeatedly warned Congress that in the absence of them stepping up to do their part, we’re going to have to make difficult trade-offs,” the official said. “Given that, we’ve revised our request to meet this moment.” That revision is more than halving the request from $22 billion to less than $10 billion.
That funding could either be included in what’s going to be an omnibus spending bill—that’s the whole slew of 2023 funding bills that would take a potential government shutdown off the table until next October. That appears to be on track, and needs to be because the current funding bill expires on Dec. 16. Both of the Senate leaders on Appropriations—Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and ranking member Richard Shelby (R-AL)—are retiring this year, which might make everyone behave nicely just out of respect. Probably not, at least as far as the House is concerned, but it could happen.
Expect another push from West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin to get his energy project permitting bill “reform” included in the omnibus or in the National Defense Authorization Act, which is (so far) being handled separately from the rest of funding. Manchin had previously gotten the support of the White House in this push. He might have screwed himself on that by releasing a scathing criticism of President Biden for suggesting that he wanted to shut down coal plants. Manchin did that four days before the election, because he is that much of an asshole. He also announced before the election that he is going to block a confirmation hearing for Richard Glick, who has been renominated to lead the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
(Note to Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and the rest of the Senate Democrats—don’t put him back in charge of the Energy and Natural Resources committee in the new Congress.)
Then there’s the debt ceiling. Somehow, Senate leaders have decided not to even try budget reconciliation to do that. Or even dealing with it during the lame-duck session, claiming that there isn’t time. “That would not be done this year by reconciliation. It takes too much time,” Schumer’s deputing Dick Durbin said in an interview. “We have three weeks and there is too much else on the agenda.” Well, then, don’t take an entire week off for Thanksgiving. Work some Mondays and Fridays.
Do. The. Job.
Also, make sure that Ukraine gets funding and the House maniacs have no leverage whatsoever to demand cuts to Social Security and Medicare.
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