WASHINGTON, March 8 (Reuters) - Lawmakers in the US Congress were expected today to release a bill providing billions of dollars in emergency aid to Ukraine, as well as money to fund the government through Sept. 30 and address Covid-19, according to a source.

The bill providing US$1.5 trillion (RM6.3 trillion) for defence and nondefence discretionary spending, which is expected to include roughly US$12 billion to help Ukraine respond to Russia’s invasion, headed toward release after Democrats agreed to lower their Covid-19 request to around US$15 billion, down from the White House’s initial US$22.5 billion request.

Congress faces a midnight Friday deadline for passing the legislation. Failure to meet the deadline would either require another stop-gap funding bill or force partial government shutdowns during a time of international crisis.

If Democrats fail to release the legislation today, the task of enacting it ahead of the Friday deadline would become more complicated, though not impossible, according to a second source familiar with negotiations.

This week’s floor schedule has already been truncated by a planned Wednesday retreat for Democrats. And Republicans, who have demanded time to review the mammoth legislation before voting, could resist any attempt to act immediately after the bill’s release.

Democrats hoped to use strong public support for helping Ukraine to pressure Republicans into passing the sweeping “omnibus” bill funding the government, after four bills this fiscal year that extended the previous year’s funding levels temporarily.

An initial vote was due no later than tomorrow in the House of Representatives. The Senate would also need to pass the legislation before it could be sent to the White House for President Joe Biden’s signature. — Reuters