US Lower House approves $13.6 billion in Ukraine aid

Washington, Mar 9 (EFE).- The United States Lower House on Wednesday approved a massive $1.5 trillion spending package that includes $13.6 billion in aid for Ukraine, and preventing a federal government shutdown.

The spending bill includes $782 billion for defense programs, a 5.6 percent increase over the previous year, and another $730 billion for domestic programs.

The package, which still needs to be approved by the Senate, was passed in two separate votes. The defense spending was approved by 361-69 and the rest by 260-171, with most Republicans opposed.

The Republicans and Democrats have united around Ukraine amid the war started by Russia, so the bill includes $13.6 billion in humanitarian and military aid for Ukraine and Eastern Europe, a figure higher than the $10 billion requested by the White House last week.

Almost half of those funds, $6.5 billion, will go to the Department of Defense to maintain its military operations in NATO countries in Eastern Europe, as well as to send equipment to Ukraine, according to a draft made public by the House Committee on Appropriations.

The aid for Ukraine also includes some $4 billion in assistance to refugees and internally displaced persons, while $1.8 billion will be aimed at responding to the economic needs of Ukraine and its neighboring countries, for example with energy or cybersecurity issues.

An additional $25 million will go towards combating disinformation and $120 million will go to the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to support activists and independent media.

The massive 2,741-page spending package is the outcome of months of negotiations between Democrats and Republicans although there are likely to be further changes in the Senate’s version.

The measure includes funds to bring back into force the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) against male violence. For decades, this law served to finance aid programs for victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse, in addition to giving them a way to seek justice in the courts.

The law was passed in 1994 and was periodically reauthorized in Congress until the conservatives let it expire in 2019.

Also included in the spending package are $400 million for Pell grants, intended for students with low-income backgrounds, and $1 billion for cancer research.

The spending package also averted a federal government shutdown from Friday due to lack of funds, by including funding for government agencies to continue operating until Sep. 30 provided they receive the green light from the Senate. EFE


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