To avoid the shutdown and boost Ukraine, lawmakers present a $1.7T bill

Congress leaders have unveiled a $1.7 trillion government spending package Tuesday morning that includes a large round of assistance to Ukraine, a near 10% increase in defense spending, and approximately $40 billion for communities affected by droughts, hurricanes, and other natural disasters.

It has 4,155 pages and includes approximately $772.5 billion to support non-defense discretionary programmes and $858 million in defense funding. The bill would be valid through September’s end.

The bill was likely to be the final major bill in the current Congress. Lawmakers tried their best to include as many priority items as possible. Or they could face a government shutdown as they race to pass the bill before Friday night.

The details of the bill were released by the lawmakers who led the negotiations shortly before 02:01 on Tuesday.

According to Senator Patrick Leahy (Democratic chairman of Senate Appropriations Committee), the spending package provides $45 billion for Ukraine’s emergency aid to combat Russian invasion. This would represent the largest American aid package to Ukraine. It will surpass President Joe Biden’s emergency request of $37 billion and guarantee that funds continue to flow to the war effort over the coming months.

In previous rounds of humanitarian, military and economic assistance, the U.S. provided $68 billion in aid to Ukraine.

Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Senate Majority Leader, stated that “the bitterness of winter is now descending on Eastern Europe.”

It also contains historic changes to the federal election law, which aim to stop future presidents and presidential candidates trying to reverse an election. This bipartisan reform of the Electoral Count Act was initiated by former President Donald Trump, who tried to persuade Republican legislators and Vice President Mike Pence not to approve of the certification that President Joe Biden won on January 6, 2021.

Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn) stated that “we are now one step closer towards protecting democracy and preventing another Jan 6th.”

Senator Republican Leader Mitch McConnell warned that, should the Fiscal Year 2023 Spending Measure fail to win bipartisan support, he will seek another temporary patch for next year. This would guarantee that the House’s new Republican majority would shape the package.

Leahy, however, argued against this approach and released the bill. He stated that “the choice was clear.” Either we do our jobs, and pay the government. Or, we can choose to abandon our responsibilities with no real way forward.

McConnell stated that the GOP was successful in its negotiations. McConnell framed the long-term spending bill, despite the fact that many people will vote against it. He stated that Republicans had succeeded in increasing defense spending beyond Biden’s request, while reducing some of Biden’s demand for domestic spending.

McConnell stated that “We have transferred enormous amounts of money from Democrats’ spending list towards our national defense, and armed forces but without allowing for the total cost to go higher.”

Shalanda Youth, Director of the Office of Management and Budget stated in a statement, that neither party got all it desired in the agreement. She praised the measure for its “benefits to our economy and competitiveness and to our country” and urged Congress to quickly send it to President Obama.

Spending on non-defense programs is expected to increase by approximately 6%. This includes an 22% increase in VA medical care that will pay for an expansion and benefit for veterans who were exposed to toxic fire pits while serving. Some environmental groups were dissatisfied with funding increases for agencies like the National Park Service and Environmental Protection Agency, saying that they don’t match inflation.

Humble negotiations over the language regarding where to locate the FBI’s future headquarters delayed the bill’s release. Maryland legislators argue that the process should include more consideration of ensuring Black communities receive a fair share of federal investment. The lawmakers are calling for the construction of headquarters in one of Maryland’s Prince George’s Countys, which is a predominantly Black county. Virginia also competes for the headquarters.

According to a Senate Democratic aide, Schumer was able to include language in the bill to ensure that the General Service Administration has “separate consultations” with legislators representing Maryland and Virginia to obtain their views.

Nearly three months behind schedule, lawmakers are close to completing the 2023 spending bill. The government had planned to finish it by Oct. 1, the beginning of its fiscal year.

In 1996, Congress passed all of its spending bills. The Senate had finished work on the bill by Sept. 30, which was the last day in the budget year. It was signed by Bill Clinton, then-President.

It is likely that the Senate will vote first on the spending bill. At least 10 Republican senators must support it to pass before it is put to the House. Legislators expressed concern about the possibility of passing legislation with thousands of pages in a short time, as has happened with other catchall spending bills.

“We have not seen one page of the Pelosi -Schumer spending bill and they expect us to pass it before the week ends,” tweeted Senator Rick Scott (R-FL). “It is insane.”

McConnell stated that he shared the dissatisfaction of many of his colleagues with this process. McConnell cited national security concerns as a reason for passing the bill. He also said that failure to pass it would cause “conflict and uncertainty for our Armed Forces” as China invests in new weapons and research for its military.

This is not an easy vote. McConnell stated that the Senate should approve this bill.


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