Pelosi removes COVID relief funding from $1.5T spending bill after Democrats balk
House Democrats unveiled the massive spending bill hours before the planned vote ahead of their issues retreat in Philadelphia
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday removed $15 billion in COVID-19 relief funding from a spending bill that would avert a government shutdown Friday after fellow Democrat members objected to a provision that would offset the new stimulus money with unused relief funds from the previously passed American Rescue Plan Act.
"The administration has requested that we include in our omnibus package additional funding to continue our battle against COVID," Pelosi wrote in a letter to her colleagues. "The funding requested will protect against potential new variants and help vaccinate the world, Republicans resisted this deeply needed funding, demanding that every cent requested by the administration be offset, including through state and local funds scheduled to be released this spring."
Pelosi said in a letter earlier in the day that the spending bill would include $8 billion of unused stimulus funds from Rescue act programs that have expired.
The California Democrat said the unused funds would have been applied toward the $15 billion of stimulus funding in the large spending package.
"Democrats fought to ensure that no localities saw their funding cuts, while negotiating that only half of the administration’s $15 billion request be offset through remaining funds from expired programs," Pelosi said.
"Because of Republican insistence – and the resistance by a number of our members to making those offsets – we will go back to the Rules Committee to remove COVID funding and accommodate the revised bill," Pelosi wrote. "We must proceed with the omnibus today, which includes emergency funding for Ukraine and urgent funding to meet the needs of America’s families."
The House, must pass the omnibus spending bill, which before Pelosi's announcement cost $1.5 trillion, then send it to the Senate before midnight Friday to avoid the shutdown of some federal agencies. House Democrats are also prepared to pass a stop-gap bill to keep the federal government fully operational should the so-called omnibus totally fail.
Pelosi continued, writing, "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."