Democrats forced to delay vote on $1.5T omnibus spending bill, Ukraine aid

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House Democrats’ plan to take a quick vote to fund the government and provide aid for Ukraine were scuttled Wednesday as leadership didn’t have the votes to advance a $1.5 trillion massive piece of legislation.

Democrats missed their planned departure to Philadelphia Wednesday for a conference retreat and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had pushed back her planned news conference as leadership huddled to find a pathway forward on the $1.5 trillion bipartisan legislation to finance federal agencies for the rest of this year.

Members told Fox News Digital that delays surrounding the bill have to do with major concerns about coronavirus funding, as well as defense spending levels and the short amount of time to review the contents of the 2,741-page measure just hours before they were expected to approve it. 

“They’re learning some of the things for the first time of what’s in the bill and what’s not in the bill,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J. “That’s your biggest problem.” 

Representative Bill Pascrell, a Democrat from New Jersey, speaks during a bill enrollment ceremony for H.R. 2476, ‘Securing American Nonprofit Organizations Against Terrorism Act,’ at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Amid the disarray, Republicans tried to vote to adjourn the House for the day, which drew the ire of Pascrell.

“These dopes adjourned because that’s all they can do because they don’t want to work,” Pascrell said referring to his GOP colleagues. 

After huddling in the speaker’s office for some time, Pelosi announced a path forward Wednesday afternoon to remove the $15.6 billion in coronavirus relief funding from the legislation. Pelosi said it was “heartbreaking” to remove the additional pandemic funding, but it was necessary to move forward with the larger spending bill, known as the omnibus, that included emergency funding for Ukraine. 

Some members said they were very upset that states that California and New York were protected from the plan to offset the spending from other states. Republicans insisted that there be spending offsets in the legislation which meant that some COVID-19 spending was to be paid for with cuts to previously approved coronavirus aid to certain states.

“It is heartbreaking to remove the COVID funding, and we must continue to fight for urgently needed COVID assistance, but unfortunately that will not be included in this bill,” Pelosi said in a letter to her colleagues. 

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., meets with reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021.
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Democrats had planned to hunker down Wednesday and send the revised legislation back to the Rules Committee and then whip votes for a later vote on final passage. 

The legislation is timely because it includes $13.6 billion in Ukraine aid and because Congress faces a Friday deadline to approve government funding or risk a shutdown. Lawmakers were still planning to pass a short-term bill to keep the government open through March 15 to give the Senate time to approve the spending plan next week.

Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., said he hopes there will ultimately be a strong bipartisan vote to signal to the people of Ukraine that help is on the way. Meeks, the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, just returned from a bipartisan trip to the Ukraine border where they witnessed the humanitarian crisis of people fleeing from Russia’s unrelenting attack.

UNITED STATES – JUNE 16: Chairman Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., left, and ranking member Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas.
((Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images))

Meeks said the Democrats planned conference in Philadelphia will have to wait until the vote gets done, and they avert any government shutdown.  

“It’s a work in progress,” Meeks said of the spending legislation. “You’ve got to readjust. But, it’s more important that we get the work done. … It expires on Friday. We can’t leave here until we get it done.”

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