Senate leaders hope to finalize a year’s worth of government funding on Thursday
The Senate voted Thursday to pass a massive $1.7 trillion in government spending which will fund critical government operations at federal agencies and provide emergency assistance to Ukraine and natural disaster relief. The House must then pass the measure as lawmakers race against the clock to avert a shutdown at the end of the week.
The expectation on Capitol Hill is that a shutdown will be avoided, but congressional leaders have little room for error as government funding runs out at the end of the day on Friday. Once the House passes the bill, it will be sent to President Joe Biden to be signed into law. The final tally of the Senate vote was 68-29.
To give the year-long bill enough time to be formally processed and sent to Biden, the Senate will pass a week-long government funding bill by unanimous consent later Thursday, Senate Republican John Thune told reporters.
The House is expected to do the same.
Senators reached a breakthrough in negotiations Thursday morning after the giant government funding bill was stalled for days over a GOP amendment to Trump-era immigration policy, Title 42, that could have plunged the entire $1.7 trillion legislation into the Democratic-controlled House.
Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah pushed to get a vote on his amendment to keep in place an immigration policy that allows migrants to be turned back at the border in an effort to prevent the spread of Covid-19, which Republicans strongly support. With Lee’s measure expected to be set on the threshold for a simple majority, there were fears it would pass and be added to the government funding bill, as several centrist Democrats support expanding the policy — only to be later rejected in the House.
To break the deadlock, Sens. Kirsten Sinema of Arizona and Jon Tester of Montana wrote an amendment in an attempt to give moderates an alternative way to vote in favor of extending Title 42, which the administration and most Democrats want to get rid of.
Centrist senators like Tester, Sinema and Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who might have voted for the GOP amendment, can now vote for the competing Democratic measure, which demonstrates their support for the policy, easing a politically difficult vote. As expected, both amendments were not adopted. Lee’s amendment to expand Trump-era immigration policies failed 47-50. The Democratic alternative from Sinema-Tester fell 10-87.
Senate leaders unveiled the $1.7 trillion annual funding bill early Tuesday morning, the product of protracted negotiations between top Democrats and Republicans in Congress. The Senate had hoped to first vote to approve the deal this week and then send it to the House for approval before government funding runs out on Dec. 23.
The massive spending bill for fiscal year 2023, known on Capitol Hill as the omnibus, provides $772.5 billion for non-defense, domestic programs and $858 billion in defense funding. It includes roughly $45 billion in emergency aid for Ukraine and NATO allies and roughly $40 billion to respond to natural disasters such as hurricanes, wildfires and floods.
Other key provisions in the bill include a sweeping overhaul of the Election Counting Act of 1887, aimed at making it harder to overturn certified presidential elections — the first legislative response to the U.S. Capitol riot and then-President Donald Trump’s relentless pressure campaign to stay in power despite his loss in 2020. The spending bill also includes the Secure Act 2.0, a package aimed at making it easier to save for retirement, and a measure to ban TikTok from government devices.
The legislative text of the package, which spans more than 4,000 pages, was released in the middle of the night — around 1:30 a.m. ET Tuesday — leaving little time for rank-and-file lawmakers and the public to review its contents before Congress plans to vote on its passage.
In a divisive political environment where bipartisan action often doesn’t happen without enormous time pressure, it has become the norm on Capitol Hill in recent years to release massive funding bills at the eleventh hour and then proceed to jam them through both chambers . That has drawn criticism from some lawmakers who say the process is rushed and secretive and doesn’t operate with the transparency it needs.
This story and headline have been updated with additional developments.
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