U.S.

The US Senate plans an initial vote on the $1.66 trillion government funding bill


WASHINGTON, Dec 20 (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate plans to vote for the first time on a $1.66 trillion government funding bill on Tuesday as lawmakers scramble to pass the measure and avert a possible partial government shutdown starting in Saturday.

The total funding proposed by the sweeping bill is up from roughly $1.5 trillion the previous year.

It includes other measures agreed to by negotiators from both sides, including a ban on the use of TikTok on government devices and clarification of Congress’s role in certification Electionsattempt to avoid a repeat of the violence of January 6, 2021.

Senate and House leaders are aiming to pass the 4,155-page bill and send it to Democratic President Joe Biden by the end of the week to ensure there are no disruptions to government operations.

“We’re going to start that process today,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said, referring to a planned vote on Tuesday that would be the first in a series of steps clearing the way for passage by Friday.

The failure could lead to a partial government shutdown early Saturday, just before Christmas, and likely lead to months of unrest after Republicans take control of the House of Representatives on Jan. 3, breaking Biden’s Democratic grip on both chambers of Congress.

Budget experts found an error in the amount of the bill.

“This budget is too late and too big,” said Maya McGuinness, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. She noted that much of the spending increases have kept pace with inflation, but added that “a lower number will help reduce inflation.”

The bill includes $44.9 billion in emergency aid for Ukraine and NATO allies and $40.6 billion to help communities in the United States recovering from natural disasters and other issues.

Funds from Ukraine will be used for military training, equipment, logistics and intelligence support, as well as replenishing US equipment sent to Kyiv. It also includes funding to prepare for and respond to potential nuclear and radiological incidents in Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin has not ruled out the use of nuclear weapons in the conflict with Ukraine.

The package for Ukraine includes $13.4 billion in economic aid and $2.4 billion to help resettle Ukrainians in the United States.

The military aid would top a record $858 billion in U.S. defense spending for the year, up from last year’s $740 billion and also more than Biden’s request.

On the non-defense side of the ledger, the bill’s negotiators have set funding at $800 billion, an increase of $68 billion over the previous year. This includes increased health care funding for poor children.

WISH LIST

Both Democrats and Republicans aimed to squeeze as many items from the legislative wish list as possible into the “omnibus” bill funding the government through the end of this fiscal year on Sept. 30, 2023, without derailing the entire package.

It was the second year in a row that Congress included funding for hundreds of largely unrelated projects requested by individual lawmakers. Congress abandoned such “target stamps” a decade ago after a series of corruption scandals, but brought them back in recent years as a way to build legislative support for budget bills.

Among the most significant additions is the bipartisan Election Counting Act, which overhauls and clarifies the congressional certification process for presidential elections.

Democrats and many Republicans see the measure as critical to avoiding a repeat of the chaos that occurred nearly two years ago, when a mob of Donald Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building in an attempt to overturn Biden’s victory.

US lawmakers also included a proposal to ban federal employees from using the Chinese app TikTok on government devices. And they supported a proposal to lift a looming deadline mandating a new safety standard for advanced cockpit warnings for two new versions of Boeing Co (BA.N) Airplane 737 MAX.

Other provisions range from additional funding for the U.S. Capitol Police to a measure backed by Maine’s delegation that delays new regulations aimed at protecting the endangered right whale, a victory for lobstermen in the state.

The failed measures included legislation that would have granted citizenship to “Dreamer” immigrants who entered the United States illegally as children.

Supporters of criminal justice reform also left largely empty-handed after a compromise measure that would have dramatically narrowed the sentencing gap between crack cocaine and powder cocaine collapsed.

The cannabis industry also took a hit after a closely watched measure that would have strengthened banking regulations for legal marijuana companies was ruled out.

Reporting by Richard Cowan and Gram Slattery in Washington, additional reporting by Andy Sullivan in Washington and Jahnavi Nidumolu in Bengaluru; Editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Gram Slattery

Thomson Reuters

Washington-based correspondent covering campaigns and Congress. He has previously been published in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Santiago, Chile, and has reported widely in Latin America. Co-winner of the 2021 Reuters Journalist of the Year Award in the business coverage category for a series on corruption and fraud in the oil industry. He was born in Massachusetts and graduated from Harvard College.


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