The White House asked Congress on Tuesday to approve nearly $48 billion to prepare for a possible winter surge in coronavirus infections and to direct additional support to Ukraine as it continues to battle a Russian invasion, according to administration officials.
The request comes as lawmakers are beginning to work out the details of a sprawling spending package that must become law before Dec. 16 to avoid a government shutdown. With less than two months before a new Congress takes office, the deadline will set off a high-stakes scramble for lawmakers and administration officials eager to see their projects and agencies fully funded before the end of the year.
Because Republicans are expected to reclaim control of the House — they need one more seat — and are already vowing to cut federal spending, the White House will face a far tougher battle to secure additional money for their priorities. While Democrats retain the majority in the Senate, the support from at least a few Republicans will be needed to push legislation over the 60-vote filibuster threshold.
“The American people rightly expect their leaders to come together and deliver on these priorities, and I urge the Congress to address them as part of a comprehensive, bipartisan agreement in the weeks ahead,” Shalanda Young, the head of the Office of Management and Budget, wrote in a letter to lawmakers.
The White House proposed sending $37.7 billion to Ukraine, setting aside $21.7 billion for military equipment and to replace Pentagon weaponry that has been already sent to the country. It would also allocate $14.5 billion to humanitarian and budget support for Ukraine in its war against Russia.
Separately, the request asks that Congress grant President Biden the authority to authorize sending up to $7 billion worth of weaponry to Ukraine.
Aid to Ukraine has retained overwhelming bipartisan support in both chambers. But Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, who on Tuesday resoundingly won the Republican nomination for speaker should his party take control of the House, has suggested funding requests for Ukraine would face more scrutiny by a new majority. Some Republicans have balked at the $37.7 billion request, given that Congress has approved $54 billion.
But Republicans in both chambers have resisted setting aside more money for the pandemic, arguing that the administration can reallocate existing funds. Talks over whether to provide additional aid stalled earlier this year without enough support.
The request would also earmark $8.25 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services to plan for another swell of coronavirus infections this winter, as well as to continue developing additional vaccines and treatments for people still dealing with the long-term effects of the virus. The request also sets aside an additional $1 billion toward the global vaccination effort.
The White House said officials would also ask for more money to support the recovery states ravaged by hurricanes and other natural disasters, including Florida and Puerto Rico. As of Tuesday, however, they had not prepared an amount.