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House passes $1.7 trillion spending bill with Ukraine aid

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The House has passed a sweeping $1.7 trillion spending bill that will keep the government from running out of money at midnight and send an additional $45 billion to Ukraine.

The measure now goes to President Joe Biden for his signature.

The bill passed 225-201 with nine Republicans — Reps. John Katko of New York, Chris Jacobs of New York, Liz Cheney of Wyoming, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Fred Upton of Michigan, Rodney Davis of Illinois, Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington and Steve Womack of Arkansas — supporting the bill. Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York voted ‘no’ and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., voted ‘present.’

“This bill is a critically important piece of legislation not only to keep our government funded, keep our people being served but also to show that the United States of America’s government works,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said ahead of the vote.

“I ask all my colleagues to join me in voting ‘yes,’ showing the world that we will never remain idle in the face of those who believe they can terrorize civilians, devour our territory and commit more crimes with impunity,” he said, countering skepticism some Republicans have voiced about continued high-levels of funding to support Ukraine.

President Biden, who said in a statement just after passage that he’d sign the bill into law “as soon as it reaches my desk,” applauded its bipartisan support.

“This bill is further proof that Republicans and Democrats can come together to deliver for the American people, and I’m looking forward to continued bipartisan progress in the year ahead,” he said.

Biden signed a short-term funding bill into law later on Friday, officially averting a government shutdown ahead of the midnight deadline and giving legislators on Capitol Hill enough time to get the spending bill processed and ready for his signature sometime in the coming days.

House Republican leaders had told GOP members to vote against the bill.

As the last bill Democrats will pass while controlling the House before the GOP takes control of the House on Jan. 3, it was considered in a mostly empty chamber — over half of House members filed proxy letters — allowing them to vote remotely — after making it home ahead of treacherous winter storms set to disrupt travel before the holidays.

Some House Republicans, including current House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy R-Calif., had called for punting the issue to the new Congress.

“This is a monstrosity that is one of the most shameful acts I’ve seen in this body. The appropriations process failed the American public, and there’s no greater example of the nail in the coffin of the greatest failure of a one-party rule,” McCarthy said in a nearly 25-minute floor speech Friday, telling the body he would be a ‘no’ vote.

He said the omnibus spends “too much, increasing the deficit and fueling more inflation,” adding, “Why is the majority of Democrats not even here if it’s so good?”

As he finished, he said, “In eleven days this all changes. We are going to reclaim this body’s integrity and service to the American people. After this institution covers itself in disgrace, disgrace one last time under Democrat one-party rule. A new direction is coming. In eleven days, Republicans will deliver.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in her final floor speech, called out McCarthy for his remarks.

“It was sad to hear the Minority Leader earlier say that this legislation is the most shameful thing to be seen on the House floor in this Congress,” she said. “I can’t help but wonder — has he forgotten about January 6?”

Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday she was hopeful the bill could pass that night, before lawmaker absences due to weather and the Christmas holiday. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., had announced earlier on Thursday an accelerated process for passing the spending bill.

The House vote was pushed back to early on Friday, according to Hoyer, in order for members to get a chance to dissect the wide-ranging package. Still, McCarthy said on the House floor on Friday, members had little time to read the bill.

The vote came after the Senate struck a last-hour deal on Thursday to pass a version of the sprawling spending package, speeding through votes on 17 amendments that included both victories and compromises from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

It also came two days behind Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s historic appeal to a joint meeting of Congress, imploring lawmakers for the $45 billion in military, humanitarian and security money he claimed wasn’t “charity” but a contribution to the success of democracy abroad.

The bill keeps doors open for federal agencies through Sept. 30, 2023, and is set to head to President Joe Biden’s desk upon its expected passage despite some anticipated repudiation from a handful of GOP House members.

“Over two thirds and the United States Senate stood and said it is time to do our duty. And they did not because each and every one of those senators thought that this bill was perfect, it is not,” Hoyer said.

The legislation includes an increase in defense spending and military and civilian federal employee pay, disaster relief, medical services for military veterans, a ban of the use of TikTok on government-issued devices and reforms to the Electoral Count Act to avoid a repeat of Jan. 6 and attempts to overturn the 2020 election.

Senate passage of the bill did not include all requests from White House officials, such as additional COVID funding and an expanded Child Tax Credit.

It also did not include an amendment from Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, that would have kept in place Title 42, a pandemic-era policy which allows the expulsion of migrants on public health grounds that expired this week despite legal challenges waged by Republicans against its rollback. Another Title 42 amendment, introduced by Sen. Krysten Sinema, I-Ariz., and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., also failed.

Still, Biden praised the legislation in his statement on Friday, highlighting it’s advancement of cancer and other disease research through his ARPA-H initiative, investment in community policing and further funding the Violence Against Women Act, among other tenants of the bill, like relief aid, Ukraine funding and veteran health care expansion.

“The bipartisan funding bill advances key priorities for our country and caps off a year of historic bipartisan progress for the American people,” he said. “I want to thank Senator Leahy, Senator Shelby, and Chairwoman DeLauro for their tireless work to get this done. Neither side got everything it wanted in this agreement – that’s what happens in a negotiation.”

Several additional amendments did pass, including two that expand pregnancy and breastfeeding accommodations and security in the workplace as well as a measure known as the 9/11 Responder and Survivor Health Funding Correction Act that funds a shortfall in the 9/11 first responder fund called the World Trade Center Healthcare Program. The amendment funds the program for another five years and authorizes $2.7 billion in compensation payments to the families of 9/11 victims, the Beirut Marine barracks bombing and other acts of terrorism.

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