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15 Nov, 2023 09:42

Biden set to sign spending bill with no Ukraine aid

The stopgap funding to avoid a government shutdown was approved by the House in a bipartisan vote
Biden set to sign spending bill with no Ukraine aid

The US House of Representatives approved a bill on Tuesday which Speaker Mike Johnson proposed last week to avoid a government shutdown. The Republican caucus was split over the vote, while all but two Democrats supported it.

The Democrat-controlled Senate is expected to approve the bill within days, with President Joe Biden’s signature also awaited, according to US media. The so-called 'stopgap' legislation included no money for Ukraine aid.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he wanted a vote in his chamber to happen “as soon as possible,” after hearing from the Biden administration that it was on board. During his consultations, “both of us agreed, the White House and myself, that if this can avoid a shutdown, it will be a good thing,” he told journalists. The shutdown deadline is November 17.

Johnson, a Republican who was elected speaker just three weeks ago, tabled his proposal under special expedited procedures that require a supermajority. The conservative wing of the Republican Party opposed it, but Democrats united with the centrists in the GOP to overcome their resistance in a 336 to 95 vote.

The speaker’s plan is for a two-tier funding of US government agencies through mid-January and early February. It shields the Republican party from potential blowback if it were to cause a shutdown ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, and gives US lawmakers breathing room to settle their clashing views on budgetary priorities.

The issue of Ukraine aid has become a political football on Capitol Hill and contributed to the downfall of Johnson’s predecessor, Kevin McCarthy. He was ousted in September by his own party, which has a slim 221-213 majority in the House of Representatives.

McCarthy was accused of striking a secret deal with the White House to ensure that Kiev would ultimately not be left without money, as the previous no-aid stopgap spending bill was being debated.

The Freedom Caucus – some three dozen conservative lawmakers who were at the forefront of the unprecedented rebellion – have criticized Johnson’s bill. A statement ahead of the vote said that “Republicans must stop negotiating against ourselves over fears of what the Senate may do.”

Representative Chip Roy of Texas said Johnson’s siding with the Democrats has put him on notice, but cut him some slack during the “honeymoon period.”

“We’re trying to give the speaker a little grace, but today’s a mistake, right out of the gate,” he said.

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