WASHINGTON — Republicans in Congress are lukewarm about providing $47 billion in new emergency spending for the ongoing Ukrainian war against Russia’s invasion, COVID-19 and monkeypox public health campaigns, and to help states recover from natural disasters.
GOP senators, who have returned to Washington after Congress’ summer break, aren’t so sure the Biden administration’s request really is needed and are pushing the White House for more details on how the administration would distribute the money. Republicans also want to know exactly where previous funding for Ukraine, COVID-19 and natural disaster recovery has gone.
“The problem is they want to keep spending more money and throw more gasoline on the inflation fire,” Texas Sen. John Cornyn said of the $6.5 billion natural disaster request. “I think that’s a bad idea.”
The White House asked that the money be included in a short-term funding bill that Congress must clear by Sept. 30 to keep the government open, one of the few must-do pieces of legislation expected to be passed before the midterm election.
While Democrats control both chambers of Congress, most legislation cannot advance through the Senate without at least 10 Republicans voting to move past the legislative filibuster. And spending bills are traditionally negotiated in a broadly bipartisan way, making minority party buy-in essential.
Cornyn said instead of providing new deficit spending on natural disasters, he’d instead like to see Congress clear a bill he co-sponsored with California Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla that would allow local, state and tribal governments to use unspent COVID-19 funds for natural disaster recovery, or infrastructure projects.
The legislation passed the U.S. Senate unanimously last October, but has not been taken up in the U.S. House, where a bipartisan group of 158 lawmakers support an identical bill that was introduced about a week after the Senate vote. Read more