HomeTechnologyGadgetsBiden says Ukraine, COVID are priorities; Senate Democrats push for spending bill

Biden says Ukraine, COVID are priorities; Senate Democrats push for spending bill

WASHINGTON, Nov. 29 (Reuters) – Top US Democrats said on Tuesday that securing more funding for Ukraine and COVID-19 and passing a full-year spending bill are priorities before Republicans take control of the House of Representatives early next year .

President Joe Biden has held talks at the White House with the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House of Representatives and Senate about what can be done in the coming weeks if Democrats still control both chambers.

The Republicans won a narrow majority in the House in the Nov. 8 midterm elections and will take over on Jan. 3, complicating Biden’s agenda for the next two years. Biden’s Democrats retained control of the Senate.

Biden said funding more military aid for Ukraine, which House Republicans have talked about pausing when they take over in January, is a priority, as is funding measures to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden added that funding the government after December 16 to avoid a shutdown was high on his list.

“And we’re going to find other areas of common ground, I hope,” he said.

Later in the day, top Senate Democrats said passing a year-long spending bill, known as an omnibus, was vital to national security.

A widely mooted alternative, known as a continuing resolution, or CR, would effectively freeze spending at current levels. Such a bill would require the armed forces to rely on obsolete equipment while largely halting the development of new military technologies, senators warned.

“If we want to keep this country safe, if we want to keep our military advantage, this (omnibus) bill needs to pass and it needs to pass now, not after another CR,” said Sen. Jon Tester, one of the top Democrats overseeing hold on to defense spending.

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is in her final weeks as the top House Democrat, acknowledged to reporters after meeting with Biden that the Democrats may have to resort to a CR until September 30, 2023, amid Republican backlash and a jam-packed legislative agenda.

Republicans are split on whether to support an omnibus spending bill or a CR, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters. He said a CR would help control spending, but acknowledged it could have negative implications for national security.

“It’s a tough choice, frankly,” he said.

On Ukraine, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, who attended the talks with Biden, gave a preview of what to expect if he takes over as speaker of the House, as he hopes.

He told reporters after the rally that he would ask questions about Ukraine’s funding, which has surpassed $18 billion, and would be willing to work with Democrats if they are “willing to get our spending under control.”

“I’m not for a blank check for anything,” he said.

Reporting by Steve Holland, Doina Chiacu and Richard Cowan; Additional reporting and writing by Gram Slattery and David Morgan; Edited by Lisa Shumaker

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Principles of Trust.



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