WASHINGTON (AP) — A $1.7 trillion spending bill to fund federal agencies through September and provide additional relief to devastated Ukraine cleared the chamber on Friday as lawmakers seek to finish their work for the year and avoid a partial government shutdown.
The bill passed mostly along party lines, 225-201. It must now be signed by President Joe Biden.
The passage of the bill was the final act for Representative Nancy Pelosi a second term as Speaker of the House of Representatives, and for the Democratic majority, she returned to power in the 2018 election. Republicans will take control of the House next year, and Rep. Kevin McCarthy is campaigning to replace her.
He is appealing to staunch conservatives in his caucus, who have largely rejected the bill’s size and many of the priorities it contains. He spoke in raised tones for about 25 minutes, lashing out at the bill for spending too much and doing too little to curb illegal immigration and the flow of fentanyl across the US-Mexico border.
“This is an atrocity that is one of the most disgraceful actions I have ever seen in this body,” McCarthy said of the legislation.
The speech drew a small quip from Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., who said that “after hearing it, it’s clear he doesn’t have the votes yet,” referring to McCarthy’s campaign to become speaker.
Pelosi said “we have a big bill here because we had a big need for the country,” then switched to McCarthy:
“It was sad to hear the minority leader say that this legislation is the most disgraceful thing to be seen in the House of Representatives in this Congress,” Pelosi said. “I can’t help but wonder if he forgot about January 6?”
The The Senate adopted a heavy defensive measure with significant bipartisan support Thursday, but the House vote was much more split. About 30 GOP lawmakers have vowed to block any legislative priority that comes from those Republican senators who voted for the bill, and leadership has called for no votes.
The bill is 4,155 pages long, excluding Senate amendments. It calls for a roughly 6% increase in spending on domestic initiatives to $772.5 billion. Defense spending will increase by about 10% to $858 billion.
The bill was passed just hours before a federal agency funding deadline. Lawmakers passed two temporary spending measures to keep the government running this budget year, and a third was also set to pass Friday to ensure services would continue until Biden could sign the full-year measure, called an omnibus, into law.
The massive bill combines 12 bills on appropriations, aid to Ukraine and disaster relief for communities recovering from hurricanes, floods and wildfires. It also contains many policy changes that lawmakers have been working to incorporate into the final major bill being considered by the current Congress.
Lawmakers have allocated roughly $45 billion to Ukraine and NATO allies, more than even Biden requested, acknowledging that future rounds of funding are not guaranteed by the new GOP-led House of Representatives.
In a dramatic address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night, President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky told lawmakers that the aid was not charity but an investment in global security and democracy.
While aid to Ukraine is largely bipartisan, some House Republicans have criticized the effort, arguing that the money would be better spent on priorities in the U.S.
“How can we send Ukraine an additional $47 BILLION in security while terrorists, drugs and criminals flood our southern border?” tweeted Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Mont.
“100 billion dollars to Ukraine. Let’s put this in perspective,” tweeted Rep. Thomas Massey, D-Kyiv., who included past rounds of aid in his tally. “That’s more than $200 million this year from every congressional district. What could your congressman do for your district with $200 million?”
McCarthy warned that Republicans will not write Ukraine a “blank check” in the next Congress. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said after Thursday’s vote that he had trouble understanding the issues.
“I’m just baffled by some of these right-wing Republicans who don’t want to help Ukraine,” Schumer said. “It’s always been like that, the more hard-right you were, the more you were anti-Soviet, and suddenly they were for it. I hope it’s not a remnant of Trump.”
The Senate passed the funding package on Thursday by a vote of 68-29, but the Senate Clerk’s Office needs time to review the bill and incorporate the amendments that were added that day. As a result, the bill was passed with a half-empty chamber. More than 220 lawmakers sought the opportunity to vote by proxy, with many scrambling to get out of town before risking canceled flights and spending Christmas in Washington.
Republicans have promised that repealing the practice of remote voting will be one of their first major acts next year.
The funding bill also includes roughly $40 billion in U.S. emergency spending, mostly to help communities across the country recover from drought, hurricanes and other natural disasters.
And he has a slew of mostly non-spending policy changes that lawmakers have been working furiously behind the scenes to enact or start from scratch next year in a divided Congress where Republicans will return to a majority in the House.
One of the most vivid examples was a historical revision to the federal election law, which aims to prevent future presidents or presidential candidates from trying to overturn elections.
The bipartisan overhaul of the Election Counting Act was a direct response to efforts by former President Donald Trump to persuade Republican lawmakers and then-Vice President Mike Pence to oppose certifying Biden’s January 6, 2021 victory.
Among the spending increases, Democrats highlighted: a $500 increase in the maximum Pell Grants for low-income students, a $100 million increase in block grants to states for substance abuse prevention and treatment programs, a 22% increase in VA health care spending, and $3.7 billion for emergency aid to farmers and ranchers affected by natural disasters, to name a few.
The bill also provides roughly $15.3 billion for more than 7,200 projects that lawmakers sought for their states and districts. Under the updated funding rules for public projects, also known as earmarks, lawmakers must post their requests online and certify that they have no financial interest in the projects. However, many fiscal conservatives criticize the targeted deduction as leading to unnecessary spending.
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