Merrick Garland's DOJ to Get Millions in Ukraine Aid Thanks to Pork-Packed Omnibus Bill
On Tuesday, President Joe Biden signed a massive omnibus spending bill to fund the government through September.
In the 2,741 pages of HR 2471, $1.5 trillion in spending has been spread out between defense, relief spending, discretionary funding (yes, that’s as vague as it sounds) and funding for nearly all federal agencies and departments.
One significant component of the bill is financial aid directly to Ukraine or for various defense projects supposedly aimed “to respond to the situation in Ukraine and for related expenses.”
In total, the bill outlines about $13.6 billion in direct aid to Ukraine, Heritage Action reported.
It was Republicans who boosted the proposed spending for Ukraine. Initially, the Biden administration had laid out $10 billion in relief, Roll Call reported.
For those who supported the bill, Russia’s war with Ukraine came at the perfect time. Ukraine was used as an excuse to pass the rest of the billions in spending.
Here is a breakdown of that spending and some highlights of what will go to aid Ukraine.
Page 395 of the bill broadly outlines areas in which the secretaries of defense and state can provide assistance: “training; equipment; lethal assistance; logistics support, supplies and services; salaries and stipends; sustainment; and intelligence support to the military and national security forces of Ukraine, and to other forces or groups recognized by and under the authority of the Government of Ukraine, including governmental entities within Ukraine, engaged in resisting Russian aggression against Ukraine, for replacement of any weapons or articles provided to the Government of Ukraine from the inventory of the United States, and to recover or dispose of equipment procured using funds made available in this section in this or prior Acts.”
Under the $13.6 billion Ukraine package, $3 billion will fund weapons transfers to Ukraine and NATO allies.
Billions also will support humanitarian assistance to Ukraine and its neighboring countries that are affected by the wave of refugees, “to respond to humanitarian needs in Ukraine and in countries impacted by the situation in Ukraine, including the provision of emergency food and shelter, and for assistance for other vulnerable populations and communities,” the bill says.
An “Economic Support Fund” will “remain available until September 30, 2024, for assistance for Ukraine and countries impacted by the situation in Ukraine, including direct financial support.”
Overall, the U.S. will spend nearly $1.8 billion in economic aid to Ukraine and the surrounding region, assuming Congress appropriates no further money.
Another $1.4 billion will go toward “Migration and Refugee Assistance” that will “remain available until expended, to assist refugees from Ukraine and for additional support for other vulnerable populations and communities.”
But while these billions of dollars are going to Ukraine, the bill also outlines enormous outlays for federal agencies to “respond to the situation in Ukraine and for related expenses.”
The Department of Justice, for example, gets $9.7 million for “Salaries and Expenses, General Legal Activities.” But why does the DOJ need more funding for salaries? Same answer: “to respond to the situation in Ukraine and for related expenses.”
The same kind of funding for salaries also applies to the Bureau of Industry and Security, the Foreign Agricultural Service, the DOJ’s National Security Division and the FBI in the bill.
Another large amount of funding goes to all branches of the military for personnel — once again, “to respond to the situation in Ukraine and for related expenses.”
Billions in other spending are tucked away in the bill in the same manner.
It comes as no surprise, though, that Republicans and Democrats alike are trying to fit funding for government and federal agencies under headings such as “Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act,” as the previous stopgap funding expired on March 11, according to Roll Call.
This omnibus bill had been in the works since April 2021, and the government needed the funding in order to not shut down.
The bill was first passed by the House, and the Senate approved it on Jan. 13. But the upper chamber sent it back to the House with changes, as GovTrack outlined.
Lawmakers then held onto the bill until the eleventh hour, making changes and cramming in more spending to fund federal agencies. Then it went before the House yet again. From there, more negotiations continued, with lawmakers making more changes on top of those from the Senate.
The final version, laden with pork-barrel spending to benefit Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and numerous other lawmakers, passed the House on March 9 and the Senate on March 10.
While the bill did have bipartisan support (it was cosponsored by four Republicans and four Democrats, GovTrack reported), Democrats were especially keen to get it passed.
Democrats were so desperate that they even hacked out the $15.6 billion provided for COVID-19, CBS News reported. Instead of offsetting the $15.6 billion by cutting funding elsewhere, which is what Republicans demanded, Democratic leaders agreed to use leftover pandemic aid money and cut out the coronavirus response spending in this bill.
But billions will still be used to bankroll a plethora of agencies and issues.
For everyone who supported this bill and all its funding, Russia’s timing for invading Ukraine came at a very convenient moment.
“Unfortunately, this crisis is being used as leverage to pass the omnibus spending bill, by tacking $13.6 billion in Ukraine aid to the rest of the unrelated non-defense spending increases and other controversial provisions,” the Heritage Foundation reported the day that the bill passed the House.
The aid that Ukraine needs to fight Russia provided a natural umbrella under which to shove a lot of additional spending.
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