WASHINGTON ― The Senate voted to send President Donald Trump a measure to avoid a government shutdown and extend Ukraine military aid that’s at the center of the House’s presidential impeachment inquiry.
Trump is expected to sign the continuing resolution, which passed the Senate by a bipartisan 82-15 vote, a week after it passed the House, 301-123. All the “nays” were from Republicans.
The legislation — which primarily serves to extend government funding to Nov. 21, beyond the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30 — would extend for another year $250 million in Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative funds that are set to expire.
After a two-month freeze, the White House released the aid earlier this month under pressure from lawmakers who said Ukraine needed to help in its ongoing conflict with Russian-backed separatists. Lawmakers had expressed fears Kyiv would not have enough time to spend the money.
The continuing resolution to avoid the government shutdown comes amid a partisan impasse on appropriations that includes $693 billion in defense spending for fiscal 2020. For the Defense Department, the stopgap spending bill would explicitly prevent new-start programs and multiyear activities, with some limited exceptions.
Congress reached a bipartisan, two-year budget deal in July which set funding levels for defense and nonmilitary programs,, but dispute is over the president’s decision earlier this month to shift $3.6 billion in military construction funds to his border wall and an impeachment probe threatened to further charge the process.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the Senate’s bipartisan vote Wednesday to end Trump’s emergency declaration — again — should convince Republicans to work with Democrats. Trump used the emergency to divert military construction funding to the border wall.
“Senate republicans unilaterally departed from our bipartisan negotiations earlier this month by proposing to divert as much as $12 billion from military construction and health programs to the president’s border wall,” Schumer said. “Obviously that was a nonstarter with Democrats, and the Republican leader and the leaders of the Appropriations Committee on the Republican side had to know that.”
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., was set to meet with Trump on Thursday in an effort to keep the process on track, especially in light of the House’s impeachment inquiry.
“That will take a lot of oxygen out of the air," he told reporters. “It will be the big story of the day, and that won’t preclude us, but it could make it harder.”
Joe Gould is senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry.