The Senate on Thursday voted to pass a comprehensive $1.7 trillion package that funds the federal government through September, provides Ukraine with $45 billion in military and economic aid and provides $38 billion in emergency disaster relief.
It also includes reforms to the Election Counting Act in response to the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, clarifying that the vice president does not have the power to overturn the results of a presidential election.
The package passed by an overwhelming bipartisan vote, 68-29, ending the Senate’s legislative work in 117thousand Congress a few days before Christmas.
The omnibus bill represents one of several major bipartisan legislative achievements of President Biden’s first two years in office, along with the $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act; The bipartisan Safe Communities Act, which aims to combat gun violence; and the $280 billion Science and Chips Act to improve U.S. competitiveness with China.
It spends $858 billion on defense programs, a 9.7 percent increase, and $772.5 billion on non-veteran-related non-defense programs, a 5.5 percent increase.
It also includes $118.7 billion for Veterans Affairs health care, a 22 percent increase, and $59 billion for programs authorized by the bipartisan infrastructure bill passed by Congress last year.
It provides $19.8 billion for arming and equipping Ukrainian forces and NATO allies and $12.9 billion for stabilizing the Ukrainian economy and compensating for deficiencies. The adoption took place a day after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke at a joint session of Congress with a request for continued support from America.
The House is expected to take up the legislation Thursday night and vote to send it to Biden’s desk before state funding runs out late Friday.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) hailed the bill as a victory for Republicans because it increased defense spending above inflation, while increasing non-defense, non-veteran spending less than inflation.
“The world’s largest military will receive a much-needed funding boost ahead of inflation. At the same time, non-defense and non-veterans spending will be lower than the rate of inflation, as a result of the real decline in the dollar,” McConnell said on the Senate floor, touting the GOP’s victory in the bill.
The legislation was passed early Thursday afternoon after senators passed a series of amendments while remaining seated at their desks to limit each vote to 10 minutes.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (DN.Y.) warned that failure to pass the bill would threaten to freeze federal funding through 2023 or even shut down the government.
“Go to a [continuing resolution] or worse, a government shutdown would be a great disservice to the American people at any time, especially during the holiday season,” he said.
The package left some key Democratic priorities on the chopping block, including a proposal to extend the enhanced child tax credit and the Safe Banking Act, which would bar federal regulators from fining financial institutions that do business with legitimate cannabis-related businesses.
But Democrats also won plenty of priorities they can tout to voters at home, such as a $500 increase in Pell Grants, the largest increase in a decade.
Republicans, in turn, got a $275 million cut to the IRS budget and banned the transfer of prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba to the United States.
Senators had hoped to finalize the bill on Wednesday or early Thursday so they could catch their flights home for the Christmas break before a severe winter storm paralyzed airports across the country.
As of mid-morning Thursday, more than 1,400 flights had been canceled across the country.
But the omnibus stalled on Wednesday and appeared to be in danger of derailing entirely when Schumer failed to agree with Republicans on which amendments to vote for.
He needed to find a way around an amendment introduced by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) that would have cut funding for Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’ office unless the Biden administration reinstated the Trump-era Title 42 policy, which blocks migrants from entering the country on visa applications. granting asylum.
Lee’s amendment got a boost Wednesday when a Senate lawmaker ruled that it could be added to the omnibus by a simple majority vote, instead of passing the 60-vote threshold that applies to many amendments.
Democrats feared that Lee’s amendment could win the support of several centrists in their caucus, allowing her to pass and jeopardizing the omnibus’s chances of passing through the House, where progressive Democrats oppose retaining Title 42.
Independent Sen. Kirsten Sinema (R-Ariz.) stepped in Thursday morning to break the partisan impasse, offering her own amendment to increase border security funding and extend Section 42 until the Biden administration comes up with a “proper plan” to handle the expected influx of migrants after the protection restrictions are lifted. health.
“Enough means enough. Stop using the border as a political tool. We are here to do our job. We have to fund the government and we have to solve our border crisis,” she said on the floor.
This gave centrist Democrats enough political cover to agree to a vote on the Lee amendment, knowing they had an alternative Section 42 proposal instead.
Lee criticized Sinema’s amendment as “a ploy designed to provide political cover for people who recognize the crisis at the border and want to appear to be doing something about it.”
It received only 10 votes, but it gave important cover to several Democrats facing a competitive race in 2024: Sen. Jon Tester (D-Monthan.), who co-sponsored the proposal, Sen. Sherrad Brown (Ohio), Sen. Joe Manchin (W. .Virginia) and Senator Jackie Rosen (Nevada).
Sinema also voted for the measure along with Sen. Tom Tillis (RN.C.), who is working with her on immigration reform, and Sens. Maggie Hassan (DN.H.) and Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) .
After that vote, the Lee amendment failed on a straight party-line vote 47-50. Three Republican senators missed the vote.
The passage of the omnibus wraps up Congress’ work on 12 annual spending bills in one fell swoop after the Senate failed to pass a single regular appropriations bill by Thursday, well after the fiscal year ended on Sept. 30.
A large group of Senate Republicans ended up voting for the final package, but many expressed frustration that they had to vote on all the spending bills bundled into one package and only had a couple of days to consider the 4,155-page omnibus.
“This process is a total disaster,” said retiring Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania), who voted against the bill.
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (D-Calif.) met with Senate Republicans on Wednesday to ask them to work more closely with House Republicans next year to avoid another battle to pass a massive spending bill before Christmas.