WH asks lame duck Congress for billions in Ukraine and COVID-19 funding

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The legislature has a limited time to act.

WASHINGTON —  The Biden administration on Tuesday asked Congress for billions more in funding this year to address COVID-19 and the ongoing war in Ukraine, suggesting lawmakers attach it to a spending bill that must pass before Dec. 16. 

The $9 billion request for COVID-19 operations and nearly $38 billion in additional relief for Ukraine will soon be joined by another emergency aid request to help communities recover from natural disasters, though administration officials didn’t say Tuesday how soon they’d release those details. 

White House budget director Shalanda Young wrote in a letter to Congress that the “American people rightly expect their leaders to come together and deliver on these priorities, and I urge the Congress to address them as part of a comprehensive, bipartisan agreement in the weeks ahead.”

The request for COVID-19 is significantly smaller than the $22.4 billion the Biden administration asked Congress to provide earlier this year. Negotiators on Capitol Hill have since reached two separate bipartisan agreements on COVID-19 funding, though neither has made it to the floor

The nearly $10 billion request the White House sent to Capitol Hill on Tuesday was “designed to meet the moment,” according to an administration official. 

“We are asking Congress for what we believe we need to combat the virus here and globally,” the official told reporters on a call Tuesday afternoon. 

The White House request for COVID-19 funding would mostly go to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to continue providing vaccines and therapeutics, support research into so-called next generation vaccines and fund research and treatments for long COVID-19. 

Another $1 billion would go to the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development to continue testing, treatment and vaccination efforts around the world. 

The Biden administration is asking lawmakers for an additional $400 million to restock the smallpox vaccine that’s been distributed throughout the summer to combat monkeypox and $350 million for “procurement and distribution of treatment for hepatitis C and pre-exposure prophylaxis to help prevent HIV.”

An administration official said they believe this is “an opportune moment for us to step up our efforts to prevent other treatable and prevent disease,” though the official declined to elaborate on why the White House is asking for the extra funding now and not through the regular appropriations process next year. 

Ukraine aid

The $27.7 billion request for Ukraine would be divided up among the U.S. departments of Defense, Energy, HHS and State. 

The bulk of the supplemental funding request, $21.7 billion, would go to the Defense Department for ongoing “military, intelligence and other defense support.” Another $14.5 billion would go to State and USAID for food security and humanitarian assistance as well as security assistance. 

The Energy Department would receive $626 million to provide Ukraine with nuclear security assistance and for the U.S. to modernize the Strategic Petroleum Reserve “to reduce domestic energy costs and ensure sustainable access to energy resources.”

HHS would get $900 million “to provide standard assistance health care and support services to Ukrainian parolees.”

An administration official said the Ukraine funding is intended to last through the end of the United States fiscal year next September. 

 Arizona Mirror on info@azmirror.com is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arizona Mirror maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jim Small for questions: Arizona Mirror

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