Senate Republicans threaten to slow efforts to fund federal agencies and provide aid to Ukraine
In the first letter, sent Thursday, eight GOP lawmakers complained that “families are feeling the pressure of soaring prices,” which they blamed on “reckless government spending.” In response, they said they “cannot allow another massive spending package to be rushed through Congress without proper scrutiny and scrutiny.”
The letter demanded “appropriate time” to read and review any funding bills. He also called for a formal analysis by the Congressional Budget Office to assess the impact of the legislation on inflation and the federal debt. And it signaled that Senate Republicans could withhold their vote if their conditions are not met, which could slow down the debate.
“Until we can fully understand what is in all potential [spending] bill, its impact on the fiscal strength of the United States and its influence on our nation’s growing inflationary crisis, we should not vote on it,” they wrote.
The missive was signed by Republican Senators Rick Scott (Florida), Cynthia M. Lummis (Wyo.), Ted Cruz (Tex.), Roger Marshall (Kansas), Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), Mike Braun (Ind.) , Ron Johnson (Wiss.) and Mike Lee (Utah). Some of the members have publicly called for help for Ukraine, with Scott in particular saying it should be decoupled from a government funding measure.
In the second memo, sent Friday, 10 Republicans reignited their campaign against federal vaccine and testing requirements. Even though public health officials widely argue that the policies are helping to curb the spread of the coronavirus, GOP lawmakers have pledged to “oppose these mandates until they are halted in ambition, design and practice.
Specifically, Republicans have vowed to block lawmakers from moving quickly to pass the bill if it funds the implementation of the mandates. They said “at the very least” they would “demand a roll-call vote on an amendment that rolls back funding for the app,” a move Republicans have demanded in other recent government funding fights. .
The second missive was signed by some of the same Republicans, plus Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.) and Steve Daines (Mont.).
While it’s unclear how far Senate Republicans might take their latest threats, their two missives have added to the challenges facing congressional leaders as they seek to cobble together a long-term government funding deal. , a goal that eluded them for months. Both sides insist they don’t want a shutdown, though their bickering — intensified by GOP demands — has repeatedly pushed the country to the brink over the past year.
For now, Democrats and Republicans say they are making progress on a long-term deal, which could include massive spending increases at key national agencies as well as the Pentagon. House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) has previously said he hopes to hold a vote on the package, known in Congressional parlance as the omnibus, as soon as Tuesday, leaving the Senate a short window to act before the March 11 deadline.
Their efforts have become more urgent in the wake of Russia’s escalating invasion of Ukraine, as lawmakers on both sides see the funding measure as an opportunity to provide billions of dollars in new humanitarian aid and military. Top administration officials this week requested about $10 billion in emergency funding for Ukraine, which some Democrats and Republicans hope to increase with new sanctions on Russia, including new limits on imports of Russian oil.
On Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed US lawmakers via Zoom and pleaded for more help for his war-torn nation. His request included the provision of additional lethal aid, as well as support for a global effort to stop buying Russian oil.
Leaving the call, Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.) said “Zelensky’s call to action must lead to the speedy passage by Congress of the $10 billion in additional aid emergency”.
Cruz, Lee and some other Republicans making threats against the spending bill have a history of using government funding battles to advance political goals. Recently, the duo forced Democrats to stage a series of ill-fated votes targeting President Biden’s policies demanding coronavirus vaccines and testing, nearly pushing the government to shut down.
Scott, meanwhile, has found himself in recent days at odds with some members of his own party over his economic plan, released in February. The proposal drew objections from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), among others, and Scott launched an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on Friday criticizing “Beltway’s cowardice” on government spending. .
Earlier in the week, a wider spectrum of Republicans issued the first warnings against the omnibus, telling Democrats they might not be able to support a spending deal that provides billions of dollars in fresh aid against coronaviruses. Lawmakers have said they want a fuller accounting of how previous aid has been spent before considering new money.
The Biden administration has said it needs more than $22 billion to prepare for future waves of the pandemic.