Washington Watch: COVID aid dropped from U.S. lawmakers’ big spending deal as $13.6 billion for Ukraine stays in package

United States

U.S. lawmakers late Wednesday passed a massive new bill that would fund the federal government for the remainder of the fiscal year, as well as further aid Ukraine, but a last-minute snag resulted in COVID-19 money being dropped.

A $ 1.5 trillion package overall, the measure was approved by the House on Wednesday night. A dispute about COVID relief funding, however, slimmed it down.

Passage by the House and later by the Senate would remove the threat of a government shutdown early Saturday morning, funding the government through Sept. 30.

Here are some of the major elements of the deal:

Ukraine aid: $ 13.6 billion in military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine and neighboring countries in Eastern Europe. That figure is up from a $ 10 billion request by President Joe Biden. The Associated Press said Democratic and Republican backing was so strong that the figure grew to $ 12 billion on Monday.

COVID: The bill originally contained $ 15.6 billion for both domestic and international efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. That includes testing, treatment and prevention.

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that the funding is being dropped, as Democrats disagreed over how it was paid for — by taking money from states — as Republicans refused to spend new money to respond to COVID. The California Democrat suggested lawmakers would look for another avenue to approve the money. “It is heartbreaking to remove the COVID funding, and we must continue to fight for urgently needed COVID assistance, but unfortunately that will not be included in this bill,” she wrote in a letter to colleagues.

Defense funding: $ 782 billion for defense, which is an increase of 5.6% over last year’s levels.

Non-defense funding: $ 730 billion — 6.7% more than last year, which is the biggest increase in four years.

Pell Grants: $ 400 increase to maximum Pell Grant award, to $ 6,895.

Affordable housing: Democrats said the bill would expand funding for affordable housing. That includes $ 280 million for 32,800 new housing vouchers, an 11% increase for affordable housing production, the Hill reported.

Current government funding expires at 12:01 a.m. ET Saturday.