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U.S. Congress passes $1.66 trillion funding bill; sending to Biden


The U.S. Capitol is seen as Congress continues work on passing a $1.66 trillion government funding bill in Washington, U.S., December 21, 2022. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

The Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives on Friday passed a $1.66 trillion government funding bill that provides record military funding and sends emergency aid to Ukraine, hours before a midnight deadline.

The spending bill for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30 was approved on a largely party-line vote of 225-201, following Senate passage the previous day.

The hard-fought legislation now goes to President Joe Biden for signing into law.

Without action by Congress, federal agencies throughout the government would have had to begun furloughing workers and shuttering non-essential services beginning at midnight Friday.

The vote marked the close, for all practical purposes, of the 117th Congress, which delivered major victories to Biden over the past two years. These included a massive COVID-19 aid stimulus bill, the first major infrastructure investment measure in years and a bill investing billions of dollars to battle climate change.

While some of the work was done in a bipartisan manner, that was not the case with the $1.66 trillion bill, opposed by House Republican conservatives and some Senate conservatives.

Conservative House Republicans went on the attack at the start of House debate, criticizing the overall cost of the bill which they said was riddled with wasteful spending that has stoked inflation in the United States.

The bill, of over 4,000 pages, was passed on Thursday in the Senate on a bipartisan vote of 68-29, with the support of 18 Senate Republicans including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy called the appropriations bill a “monstrosity” and “one of the most shameful acts” he has seen in Congress. McCarthy was present when a mob of Donald Trump supporters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, seeking to hang Trump’s vice president.

McCarthy, who is seeking to become the next speaker of the House, has been struggling to shore up support from his most conservative Republican members, who contend that he has not yet nailed down enough support to win that election on the first ballot on Jan. 3.

Far-right Republicans want deep domestic spending cuts that this “omnibus” spending bill does not accomplish.

After weeks of haggling and threats of government shutdowns, Congress completed one of its most basic duties: appropriating money to keep the bureaucracy humming, three months after a new fiscal year began on Oct. 1.

National security concerns prompted legislators to include a provision to ban the use of Chinese-owned social media app TikTok on federal government devices.

While many House Republicans said they preferred to simply legislate another temporary funding bill extending into early next year, the massive full-year measure takes a heavy load off of Republican leaders who will take control of the chamber on Jan. 3 as a result of November’s midterm elections.

That will allow House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy to avoid a fierce fight at the start of the new year and focus on his run for the powerful position of House speaker.

While the majority of his caucus supports him, a vocal minority of conservative Republicans have voiced opposition to his candidacy, a concern since he needs a majority of the 435-member House to support him.

Democrats are likely to support their newly selected leader, Representative Hakeem Jeffries, to be speaker in a mostly symbolic effort.

Emotions were raw among House members still in Washington.

“You all are railroading this $1.7 trillion bill full of garbage without any regard for what it’s costing Americans,” Republican Representative Tim Burchett said in a speech.

Like several Republicans, Burchett also attacked the attached emergency aid for helping Ukraine in its battle against invading Russian forces.

“Over $45 billion for Ukraine when Europe should be carrying the burden of these costs,” Burchett said.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Democrat, shot back: “This sweeping package is anything but garbage,” adding, “it is in fact the essence of supporting our national security, our domestic security and the welfare of our people.”

The legislation would provide the Defense Department with a record $858 billion, up from $740 billion last year.

Around $800 billion would be designated for the array of non-military programs, $68 billion over fiscal 2022.

Ukraine would get $44.9 billion in new emergency U.S. aid. The debate in Congress over the bill was punctuated by a visit on Wednesday by Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who thanked Americans for bolstering his country’s war effort against Russia and argued the U.S. funds were a good “investment.”

Other major spending items in the bill include over $27 billion for the victims of natural disasters, a major increase in funding for those struggling with drug addiction and funding to help carry major infrastructure projects made possible by a bill enacted in 2021.