Government funding under the current stop-gap continuing resolution expires on Friday at midnight. Ukraine is valiantly fending off Russian encroachment toward Kyiv, and there’s yet another COVID variant waiting in the wings. The usual suspects within the Republican Senate are promising to delay forward movement in dealing with all of that. Because that’s what they do.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced last Friday that an omnibus spending bill to finally fund this fiscal year of government operations will be on the floor Wednesday. House leaders intend to include $10 billion in emergency spending for Ukraine and $22.5 billion for the ongoing pandemic response, both requested by the Biden administration.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi highlighted the $10 billion request for Ukraine a letter to House Democrats Sunday. “As President Biden has made crystal clear, American troops will not go to war in Ukraine—but our nation can provide military equipment and support our allies who are supplying airplanes to Ukraine,” she wrote. “We must also help the one and a half million Ukrainian refugees fleeing their homes and escaping to other nations, which the United Nations has said is the ‘fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.’”
Pelosi told Democratic lawmakers that they are also drafting legislation to “ban the import of Russian oil and energy products into the United States, repeal normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus, and take the first step to deny Russia access to the World Trade Organization,” as well as give the Biden administration approval to raise tariffs on Russian imports.
That oil import ban is going to cause a fight between the “drill baby, drill” faction of the Democratic Party—Sen. Joe Manchin (WV)—and everyone else who sees this as an opportunity to start making big investments in alternative energies so we’re not depending on fossil fuel from anywhere. Republicans are certainly going to join the Manchin faction, while at the same time bashing Biden for rising gas prices, which they’re demanding happen with this oil import ban.
That’s a fight for another day, however.
The fight for this week is in the Senate, in the ongoing Republican civil war. The background to all this is the horrifying agenda Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) released last month, one in which he promised essentially to do away with Social Security and Medicare and raise everyone’s taxes, in addition to a whole lot of fascistic culture war things. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell publicly and hotly rebuked Scott for free-lancing on a hugely unpopular plan. Scott retaliated with an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal slamming McConnell for “cowardice,” though not by name.
Now Scott is spearheading a group of Senate deplorables in threatening both government funding and a delay in that emergency aid to Ukraine. A group of 10 senators has sent two hostage letters to Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, demanding “appropriate time” for consideration of the funding bill (which has been being debated since this time last year, as it is the budget that was supposed to have been adopted by Oct. 1, 2021), and a Congressional Budget Office score.
The group in the first letter included, along with Scott, Cynthia Lummis (WY), Ted Cruz (TX), Roger Marshall (KS), Marsha Blackburn (TN), Mike Braun (IN), Ron Johnson (WI), and Mike Lee (UT). Truly, the bright lights of the Senate there. The second letter laid out their opposition to any more funding for pandemic response, with many of those same senators and adding in Rand Paul (KY) and Steve Daines (MT). They promise to block any move to fast-track the omnibus spending bill if it includes this funding, writing that “at the very least” they would “require a roll-call vote on an amendment that defunds enforcement” of vaccine mandates.
Scott and team’s plan is to force Democrats to split up the omnibus spending bill from Ukraine relief, pass the latter, and force yet another continuing resolution on government funding to avoid a shutdown. Not that this crew would particularly care if they forced a shutdown, but what they really want is for President Biden to have to operate under the budget passed in Trump’s last year—to enforce the Trump spending bill until at least the midterms.
The House very well could have a vote on the omnibus spending bill, with Ukraine and pandemic spending looped in, on Wednesday. That would give the Senate just enough time to turn it around before the Friday, midnight deadline. It is not at all clear that the Senate can get it done.
On the plus side, Scott has apparently moved on from his efforts to stop the U.S. Postal Service reform bill from passing. The Senate will have another vote to move forward on it Monday afternoon, hopefully holding off any amendments to the bill, including a last-minute attempt by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) to do away with postal banking.
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