Joe Biden is expected to sign the $1.5tn omnibus package into law today at 2:15pm local time, allowing government spending to continue past the deadline set at midnight tonight (after it was extended from the deadline set last week).
Not included in this package is the $15bn in Covid relief money that Democrats had been pushing for – the White House had asked for $22.5bn. This puts the administration in a bind because the chances of getting a standalone Covid funding bill passed are slim. Punchbowl News is reporting that the Democrats are mad at how the White House handled it all. It appears now that with nothing left to do, the White House will be sending out a letter to congressional leaders about the fallout of not including this funding in the omnibus package.
Biden mulls European trip as pressure over Ukraine increases
Howdy, live blog readers. Let’s get down to it.
As we enter day 20 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the question that keeps getting asked is what more can the US do to help the fight against Vladimir Putin?
Joe Biden is in a difficult position. Providing too much aid could tip the scales from one country’s war of aggression into a full-blown third world war. Provide not enough and he will face accusations of sitting on his hands in the face of a humanitarian crisis.
As Congress pressures his administration to facilitate the transfer of fighter jets from Poland to Ukraine, and calls to support establishing a no-fly zone over Ukraine continue, the White House is reportedly considering sending the president to Europe.
The press secretary, Jen Psaki, remained noncommittal yesterday on concrete plans for a trip but made it clear that all options were on the table.
The vice-president, Kamala Harris, has visited Europe during the conflict, reiterating US commitment to Nato and standing with allies should fighting spread. It’s unclear what a trip from Biden could achieve beyond a humanitarian visit with Ukrainian refugees, which Psaki would not confirm was part of any plans.
What little is known is that a possible stop would be Brussels, home to Nato and the European Union, as officials told Politico.
What is clear is that as horrific images and stories from Ukraine keep coming in, the administration is facing major frustration on all sides. Psaki came under fire from a Fox News reporter who pointed out that Biden said in February the US would respond “forcefully” if Americans were targeted in Ukraine. Now an American filmmaker has been killed and two American journalists injured, some reportedly in a targeted attack by Russian forces.
Other reporters questioned what more the US could do if Putin was showing no signs of deescalation, despite the near-crippling of the Russian economy. Psaki said the US had more options and more consequences could be imposed on Russia – but declined to go into detail.