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Senate approves $1.5 trillion budget containing emergency Ukraine aid

The US Senate passed a bipartisan $1.5 trillion spending bill that included $14 billion in aid to Ukraine Thursday night, a day after the measure was approved by the House of Representatives.

The bill easily cleared the 60-vote threshold in the politically divided Senate, passing 68-31.

Certain passage of the sweeping bill, which came five months late, would fund the US through the summer and avert a government shutdown Saturday morning.

Democrats were forced to scuttle a $15 billion COVID-19 relief package Wednesday to save the bill, but both parties rallied to send emergency aid to Ukraine as the country desperately fights to fend off Russian invaders.

“We promised the Ukrainian people they would not go at it alone in their fight against [Russian President Vladimir] Putin,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said just before the vote.

“And once we pass this funding in a short while, we will keep that promise,” the New York Democrat pledged.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer praised the bill, claiming the US was keeping its promise to aid Ukraine.
AP Photo/Evan Vucci

The measure was expected to be signed by President Joe Biden, who told political donors Thursday that the Russian war “failed to divide” the US from its anti-war resolve.

The Ukraine package allocated $6.5 billion to send US troops and weapons to the war’s perimeter and another $7 billion in financial aid to refugees and allies.

The White House did hear continued criticism from lawmakers after backing out of a plan to help supply Ukraine pilots with Soviet-era war planes, a move Biden saw as a provocation with Moscow.

Get the latest updates in the Russia-Ukraine conflict with The Post’s live coverage.

“This administration’s first instinct is to flinch, wait for international and public pressure to overwhelm them, and then take action only after the most opportune moment has passed us by,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican.

In a massive bill loaded with provisions that appeased both parties, GOP representatives won a 6 percent increase on Pentagon funds, while Democrats touted a 7 percent increase for domestic priorities like education, child care and climate spending.

The bill also saw the return of earmarks: spending allocations for pet projects in lawmakers’ districts that were dropped in 2011 over concerns of misappropriation. Members from both parties had lobbied to reintroduce “member-directed spending” with new oversights to guard against pork-barrel scandals.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell secured a 7 percent increase in spending for the Pentagon.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell secured a 7 percent increase in spending for the Pentagon.
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

An amendment to strip the earmarks by Indiana Republican Sen. Mike Braun was easily rejected in a bipartisan vote, leading him to say “the swamp is rising again.”

Axed funding meant to bolster COVID-19 vaccine supply, treatments and tests at home and abroad was cut when rank-and-file congressional Democrats balked at GOP demands that cuts to state aid be used to cover the initiatives Wednesday.

A vote on the COVID-19 measure outside the spending bill was expected to face an uphill battle in the evenly divided Senate, leaving the future of the Biden administration’s pandemic response uncertain.

With Post wires

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