The Senate passed a $1.7 trillion bipartisan government funding package Thursday, sending the measure to the House for final approval ahead of a midnight Friday shutdown deadline.
The legislation, passed 68-29, is expected to clear the House late Thursday or early Friday before heading to President Biden’s desk.
The $1.7 trillion bill funds the federal government through next September and will mark Congress’ final business of the year.
It includes $773 billion for nondefense discretionary spending and $858 billion for defense funding, a nearly 10% year-over-year increase for the military. The measure also provides $45 billion for Ukraine, and repeals the administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for the military.
The legislation’s approval in the Senate came after a border policy showdown and amid conservatives lamenting that the price tag was wasteful and ill-timed ahead of Republicans gaining control of the House next month.
The 4,155-page document was passed in the Senate a little more than two days after it was released, in a bid by Congress to avoid a shutdown and allow lawmakers to get home for the holidays before winter storms upend their plans.
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“It’s far too easy for Congress to escape its own rules designed to prevent reckless spending. There hasn’t been enough time for a single person to have read this entire bill,” Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, said. “The bill and process ignores soaring inflation, rising interest rates and our ballooning debt of $31 trillion. Enough is enough.”
Fifteen amendments were offered by Republicans and Democrats, a series of votes the two sides had agreed to take to fast-track the legislation.
Several amendments passed, including measures expanding workplace accommodations for pregnant women and mothers with newborns who need breastfeeding, allowing states and local governments to use COVID-19 relief funds for infrastructure projects, allowing authorizing the seizure and sale of Russian oligarchs’ assets to go to Ukraine, and providing relief to 9/11 first responders and survivors with health conditions from the attack.
The proceedings were delayed after a demand by GOP Sen. Mike Lee of Utah for a simple majority vote on an amendment to preserve Title 42, the Trump-era immigration policy that allows the U.S. to more easily turn away asylum seekers at the border.
The Supreme Court temporarily prevented Title 42 from expiring this week. Lawmakers fear illegal crossings along the southern border would be exacerbated without it, but the inclusion of Title 42 in the spending bill would have tanked the chances of the overall measure in the Democratic-led House.
To overcome the logjam, Senate Democrats agreed to a simple majority vote on Mr. Lee’s amendment, while also allowing a vote on a similar amendment from Sens. Jon Tester, Montana Democrat, and Kyrsten Sinema, Arizona independent, that required 60 votes. The agreement prevented either from passing, while allowing lawmakers a messaging vote.
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The spending package includes provisions that are controversial for Republicans, such as thousands of earmarks worth nearly $10 billion from lawmakers of both parties, and boosting the FBI’s budget by $570 million to $11.3 billion. The latter provision drew criticism from House Republicans who plan to investigate the bureau over reports of widespread misconduct, anti-conservative bias and politicized investigations.
The bill will also designate a “Speaker Nancy Pelosi Federal Building” in the outgoing speaker’s hometown of San Francisco, and create a $3.6 million “Michelle Obama Trail” in Georgia.
The legislation created a rift in the GOP, with House Republicans calling on their Senate counterparts to kick any major funding bill to next month when they take the majority.
Senate Republicans rejected the idea and suggested House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy, who is fighting to become the next House speaker, would be unable to navigate the political waters and avoid a shutdown.
The current deal, said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, was as good as it’s going to get.
“I’m pretty proud of the fact that with a Democratic president, Democratic House, and Democratic Senate, we were able to achieve through this … spending bill essentially all of our priorities,” the Kentucky Republican said.