A $1.7 trillion spending bill to fund federal agencies through September and provide more aid to devastated Ukraine passed the House on Friday as lawmakers race to finish their work for the year and avoid a shutdown part of the government.
The bill passed mostly along party lines, 225-201. It now goes to President Joe Biden to be signed into law.
The bill’s passage marked a closing act for Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s second term as speaker of the House, and for the Democratic majority she returned to power in the 2018 election. Republicans will take control of the Chamber next year and the deputy. Kevin McCarthy is campaigning to replace her.
He is enlisting the support of staunch conservatives in his caucus who have trashed the size of the bill and many of the priorities it contains. He spoke loudly for about 25 minutes, attacking 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 abomination that is one of the most shameful acts I have ever seen in this body,” McCarthy said of the legislation.
The speech drew a quick quip from Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., who said “after hearing that, it’s clear he still doesn’t have the votes,” a reference to McCarthy’s campaign to become speaker .
Pelosi said “we have a great bill here because we had great needs for the country,” then turned to McCarthy:
“It was sad to hear the minority leader say that this legislation is the most embarrassing thing that has been seen in the House in this Congress,” Pelosi said. “I can’t help but wonder if January 6th had been forgotten?”
Biden applauded the bill’s passage, saying it was proof that Republicans and Democrats could work together and “I’m looking forward to continued bipartisan progress in the coming years.”
“This bill is good for our economy, our competitiveness and our communities, and I will sign it into law as soon as it reaches my desk,” Biden said.
The Senate passed the strong defense measure on Thursday with significant bipartisan support, but the vote was much more divided in the House. About 30 Republican lawmakers vowed to block any legislative priority coming from those Republican senators who voted for the bill and leadership urged a vote against it.
In the end, nine House Republicans voted in favor of the bill. Seven of them leave Congress. Only Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania and Steve Womack of Arkansas will return. The only Democrat who voted against the measure was Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.
The bill is 4,155 pages long, not including the amendments added by the Senate. It contains about a 6% increase in spending for domestic initiatives, to $772.5 billion. Spending on defense programs will increase by about 10% to $858 billion.
The bill’s passage came just hours before funding for federal agencies was set to expire. Lawmakers have approved two stopgap spending measures to keep the government running so far this budget year, and a third was also due Friday to ensure services continue until Biden could sign the full measure. year, called an omnibus.
The massive bill includes 12 appropriations bills, aid to Ukraine and disaster relief for communities recovering from hurricanes, floods and wildfires. It also contains numerous policy changes that lawmakers worked to include in the major final bill being considered by the current Congress.
Lawmakers provided roughly $45 billion to Ukraine and NATO allies, more than Biden even requested, an acknowledgment that future funding rounds are not guaranteed with a new GOP-led House.
In a dramatic speech to a joint meeting of Congress on Wednesday night, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told lawmakers that the aid was not charity but an investment in global security and democracy.
While aid to Ukraine has largely had bipartisan support, some House Republicans have been critical of the effort, arguing the money is better spent on priorities in the US.
“How can we send an additional $47 billion to Ukraine for security while terrorists, drugs and criminals flood our southern border?” tweeted the rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Mont.
“$100 billion to Ukraine. Let’s put it in perspective,” tweeted Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., who included previous rounds of aid in his tally. “That’s over $200 million this year from each congressional district. What could your congressman have done for your district with $200 million?”
McCarthy has warned that Republicans would not write a “blank check” for Ukraine in the next Congress. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said after Thursday’s vote that he has trouble understanding the concerns.
“I’m baffled by some of these right-wing Republicans who don’t want to help Ukraine,” Schumer said. “It’s always been, the harder right you were, the more anti-Soviet you were, but suddenly, they’re professionals. I hope it’s not a Trump holdover.”
The Senate approved the funding package on Thursday by a vote of 68-29, but the Senate Clerk needs time to review the bill and include amendments that were added that day. As a result, the bill ended up passing with a half-empty chamber. More than 220 lawmakers sought the option of voting by proxy, and many rushed out of town before risking canceled flights and spending Christmas in Washington.
Republicans have promised that abolishing the practice of remote voting will be one of their first major acts next year.
The funding bill also contains approximately $40 billion in emergency spending in the US, primarily to help communities across the country recover from drought, hurricanes and other natural disasters.
And it has dozens of largely unrelated policy changes that lawmakers worked furiously behind the scenes to include but will start from scratch next year in a divided Congress where Republicans will return to the House majority.
One of the most notable examples was a landmark overhaul of federal election law intended to prevent future presidents or presidential candidates from trying to overturn an election.
The bipartisan overhaul of the Election Counting Act was a direct response to former President Donald Trump’s efforts to persuade Republican lawmakers and then-Vice President Mike Pence to oppose certifying Biden’s victory in January. 6, 2021.
Among the spending increases, Democrats highlighted: a $500 increase in the maximum size of Pell Grants for low-income college students, a $100 million increase in block grants to states for prevention programs and substance abuse treatment, a 22% increase in VA Health Care spending, and $3.7 billion to provide emergency aid to farmers and ranchers affected by natural disasters, just to name a few.
The bill also provides roughly $15.3 billion for more than 7,200 projects that lawmakers sought for their home states and districts. Under the revamped rules for funding community projects, also called earmarks, lawmakers must post their requests online and certify that they have no financial interest in the projects. Still, many fiscal conservatives criticize the earmark as an unnecessary expense.
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