The Senate approves a spending law with 13.6 billion for Ukraine

The US Senate on Thursday approved a massive $1.5 trillion spending package that includes $13.6 billion in aid for Ukraine, funds against gender-based violence, and an item to prevent government paralysis.

By 68 votes in favor and 31 against, the Senate gave the green light to the budget measure, which was already approved by the Lower House on Wednesday and only needs the signature of President Joe Biden, to become law.

Biden is expected to support the measure before midnight this Friday, when the funds for the Administration run out, which under the new law would be financed until September 30.

The two parties have united around Ukraine in the face of the war started by Russia, so the legislative project includes 13.6 billion dollars in humanitarian and military aid for Ukraine and Eastern Europe, a figure higher than the 10 billion requested by the White House last week.

“With these resources, we will be able to provide historic support to the Ukrainian people as they defend their country and their democracy,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement following the approval of the measure.

Almost half of the funds for Ukraine, 6,500 million, would go to the Department of Defense so that it can maintain its military operations in NATO countries in Eastern Europe, as well as to send military material to the country, according to a draft of the law.

The item for Ukraine also includes some 4,000 million to help refugees and internally displaced persons, while 1,800 million will be aimed at responding to the economic needs of Ukraine and its neighboring countries, for example with energy or cybersecurity issues.

In addition, 25 million will go to techniques to combat disinformation and 120 million will go to the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to help activists and independent media.

In total, the budget package includes 782,000 million dollars for defense spending, which represents an increase of 5.6% over the previous year; and another 730,000 for US national needs funding.

The measure includes funds to bring back into force a law against male violence known by its acronym in English, VAWA, and that for decades served to finance aid programs for victims of mistreatment and sexual abuse, in addition to giving them away to seek justice in the courts.

That law dates from 1994 and was periodically endorsed in Congress until the conservatives let it expire in 2019.

Also included are 400 million for so-called Pell grants, intended for low-income university students, and 1,000 million for cancer research.

There are also funds to help Puerto Rico “emerge from bankruptcy” and finance its nutrition and health insurance programs for low-income people (Medicaid), Senate Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer explained in a statement.

The text of the spending package was made public on Wednesday and initially included a provision of 15.6 billion dollars to fight covid-19, less than the 22.5 billion the White House had requested.

That provision, however, had to be eliminated due to discrepancies among Republicans and some Democrats, to the frustration of the White House.

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