Under the hood of $1.5T bill for Ukraine, pandemic, agencies

Mar 10, 2022, 11:10 PM | Updated: Mar 11, 2022, 10:21 am

WASHINGTON (AP) — Even for Congress, the $1.5 trillion price tag for its bipartisan package helping Ukraine and financing federal agencies for the last half of this year is a lot of money. And 2,741 pages is a long, long bill.

In fact, the measure and its cost are so daunting that it can be hard to digest. Here’s a look at some of what’s going on as the legislation heads to President Joe Biden’s desk.

FOR UKRAINE, A BIG NUMBER

The legislation, which Congress approved this week, would provide $13.6 billion to help Ukraine resist Russia’s invasion and to buttress NATO allies worried about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s next move.

There’s money for weapons and equipment, for humanitarian aid for refugees and allied nations’ economies, and for the U.S. costs of bolstering its military presence in the region. It’s roughly evenly divided between defense and non-defense spending.

In the world of foreign aid, $13.6 billion is real money. By comparison, the overall bill also includes $3.3 billion in military assistance for Israel, long a top recipient of such help. There’s $1.65 billion for Jordan and $1.3 billion for Egypt.

From a different perspective, Russia, whose forces have been tromping through Ukraine and bombarding cities for two weeks, had a $62 billion military budget in 2020, according to the World Bank. Ukraine’s was $6 billion.

Overall, annual U.S. foreign assistance for economic, military and humanitarian programs comes to around $50 billion, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service. That’s less than 1% of this year’s federal budget, though it makes the U.S. the world’s biggest provider of foreign aid.

Many in Washington think there will be more aid to Ukraine and Eastern Europe, though it’s unclear when.

FOR NOW, NO MORE PANDEMIC MONEY

Though White House officials initially told Congress that Biden wanted $30 billion more to continue battling COVID-19, a few days later he formally requested a scaled-back $22.5 billion. In bargaining over a final bill with skeptical Republicans, who said Congress had already spent enough, top Democrats settled for $15.6 billion.

But Wednesday, rank-and-file House Democrats rebelled against cuts Republicans had negotiated in previously approved pandemic aid for 30 states to help pay for the new spending. Rather than delaying the entire bill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., removed all the pandemic funds. The number ended up at zero.

How to measure the potential impact of $15.6 billion?

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says the six COVID-19 relief bills enacted since March 2020 cost around $5.1 trillion. The $15.6 billion Democrats want is less than one-third of 1% of that total.

The White House’s Office of Management and Budget, measuring the money differently, says $4.6 trillion has been provided to respond to the pandemic. It says of that, $4.2 trillion has been spent or formally committed to programs.

According to a Health and Human Services Department table, $370 billion of the total was specifically for public health initiatives like acquiring vaccines, testing and reimbursing health care providers. Of that, $355 billion has been spent or committed to contracts.

The $15.6 billion Democrats want would largely be for obtaining vaccines and drugs in preparation for any future variants or other pandemic needs, though some would be to help other countries. Republicans say there are plenty of unspent funds to draw on.

Democrats say they’ll fight for the added funds in future bills. But Pelosi’s willingness to lay the proposed COVID-19 money aside, even temporarily, suggests that with the omicron wave receding and voters exhausted from the two-year-old pandemic, the issue’s political clout may be waning.

EARMARKS ARE BACK

In 2011, Republicans ended Congress’ practice of slipping projects requested by members for their districts into spending bills. The so-called earmarks were beloved by lawmakers eager to bestow them on constituents, and by party leaders as a way to finagle rank-and-file support for legislation.

But the practice had fallen into disrepute, especially among conservatives, as a symbol of wasteful spending that was steered by cronyism, not actual need.

This year, Democrats controlling Congress brought them back, rebranded as community projects and subject to tighter restrictions.

According to House figures, the expansive spending bill includes 2,021 of the projects worth $2.5 billion for the chamber’s Democrats. Republicans got 706 of them, with a $1.7 billion price tag.

The Senate didn’t immediately provide totals for its earmarks, but its tables listing senators’ projects totaled 300 pages.

That included an unusually large $76 million for the medical school at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The sponsor: that state’s Sen. Richard Shelby, top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, who’s retiring.

Another soon-to-be retiree, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Appropriations panel, had 11 projects for Vermont worth $27 million in just one section of the legislation.

Many lawmakers weren’t shy and blasted out news of their achievements in press releases and tweets.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, a senior Republican on Appropriations, said she’d obtained $241 million for her home state of West Virginia. Liberal Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said her 10 projects included $3 million to improve obstetrics facilities at a Queens hospital.

CONGRESS’ SPENDING WORK, LATE AGAIN

Lawmakers are completing the 2022 spending package more than five months late. It was supposed to be finished by last Oct. 1, when the government’s fiscal year began.

That seldom happens. The last time Congress enacted all its spending bills by then was in 1996, when the Senate finished its work on Sept. 30, the very last day of the budget year. Then-President Bill Clinton signed it that same day.

Even so, Congress has been slower than this before. Its worst performance came in 2017, when lawmakers didn’t finish all their spending work until May.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Britain's Prime Minister Liz Truss makes a speech at the Conservative Party conference at th...
Associated Press

With division at home, UK’s Truss seeks to thaw EU relations

LONDON (AP) — After an acrimonious divorce and years of bickering, Britain’s government looks like it wants to make up with the European Union. The tax-cutting economic plans of the country’s new prime minister, Liz Truss, has her feuding at home with financial markets, the opposition and chunks of her own Conservative Party. But abroad, […]
24 hours ago
This undated photo provided by Merced County Sheriff's Office shows Jasleen Kaur, left, and Jasdeep...
Associated Press

‘Our worst fears’: Kidnapped baby, parents, uncle found dead

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A baby girl, her parents and uncle were found dead in a central California orchard two days after they were kidnapped at gunpoint from their business, police said. “Our worst fears have been confirmed,” Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke said at a Wednesday night news conference. Warnke did not release any […]
24 hours ago
A currency trader walks by the screen showing the foreign exchange rate between U.S. dollar and Sou...
Associated Press

Asian stocks mixed on strong US hiring, OPEC oil output cuts

BEIJING (AP) — Asian stocks were mixed Thursday after strong U.S. hiring dampened hopes the Federal Reserve might ease off plans for interest rate hikes and the OPEC group of oil exporters agreed to output cuts to shore up prices. Tokyo and Seoul advanced while Hong Kong and Sydney declined. Chinese markets were closed for […]
24 hours ago
FILE - The exterior of Phoenix College, part of the Maricopa County Community College system, is se...
Associated Press

Arizona weighing in-state tuition rate for some non-citizens

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona voters this November will decide whether to allow students regardless of their immigration status to obtain financial aid and cheaper in-state tuition at state universities and community colleges. At least 18 states, including California and Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia now offer in-state tuition to all students who […]
24 hours ago
FILE - Actor Kevin Spacey arrives at the Old Bailey in London on July 14, 2022. Spacey heads to cou...
Associated Press

Kevin Spacey faces civil trial on sexual assault claims

NEW YORK (AP) — Kevin Spacey heads to court Thursday to defend himself in a lawsuit filed by Anthony Rapp, the actor who in 2017 made the first in a string of sexual misconduct allegations that left the “House of Cards” star’s theater and filmmaking career in tatters. The trial, expected to last less than […]
24 hours ago
Infowars founder Alex Jones appears in court to testify during the Sandy Hook defamation damages tr...
Associated Press

Closing arguments set in Alex Jones’ Sandy Hook trial

WATERBURY, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut jury is expected to hear closing arguments Thursday in a trial to determine how much Infowars host Alex Jones should pay for persuading his audience that the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School was a hoax perpetrated to impose more gun control laws. The six-person jury could begin […]
24 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
...
Children’s Cancer Network

Children’s Cancer Network celebrates cancer-fighting superheroes, raises funds during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Jace Hyduchak was like most other kids in his kindergarten class: He loved to play basketball, dress up like his favorite superheroes and jump as high as his pint-sized body would take him on his backyard trampoline.
...
Sanderson Ford

Don’t let rising fuel prices stop you from traveling Arizona this summer

There's no better time to get out on the open road and see what the beautiful state of Arizona has to offer. But if the cost of gas is putting a cloud over your summer vacation plans, let Sanderson Ford help with their wide-range selection of electric vehicles.
Under the hood of $1.5T bill for Ukraine, pandemic, agencies