Five highlights from the $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill Congress just passed
Congress this week unveiled and swiftly passed a sprawling $1.7 trillion omnibus package to fund the government through September 2023.
The Senate passed the measure on Thursday in a 68-29 vote and the House on Friday passed it 225-201-1.
It now heads to the White House, where President Biden is expected to approve the funding measure.
Below are five highlights from the 4,000-page bill:
Defense and nondefense spending
The omnibus put roughly $773 billion toward non-defense discretionary spending, compared to $858 billion for defense funding.
Negotiators say defense funding baseline saw about a 10 percent increase, while the nondefense baseline saw roughly half that jump, when not factoring in the veterans funding, which Democrats had previously pressed be categorized in its own section in spending talks.
Republicans backing the package say the bill have touted that gap as a check on domestic spending by Democrats, while shoring up defense operations at an increase higher than the pace of inflation, which hit an annual rate of 7.1 percent last month.
“The world’s greatest military will get the funding increase that it needs, outpacing inflation. Meanwhile, nondefense, non-veterans spending will come in below the rate of inflation, for a real-dollar cut,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said.
Congress greenlit about $45 billion in emergency funding to support Ukraine, nearly a year after Russia invaded the country.
That includes about $19.8 billion to arm and equip Ukraine and European allies, $12.9 billion for economic assistance and $6.2 billion for the Department of Defense.
The White House asked Congress for $37.7 billion in additional aid for Ukraine last month. The jump in funding comes as some conservatives have become critical of the aid, raising concerns about how such funding would fare in a divided Congress next year.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed Congress in a historic speech earlier this week, becoming the first foreign leader to address Congress during wartime since 1941, when Winston Churchill came to the nation’s capital.
During the speech, Zelensky thanked the U.S. for the assistance allocated so far, but also pleaded for further aid to fend off Russia’s ongoing attacks.
“Your money is not charity,” Zelensky said. “It’s an investment in the global security and democracy that we handle in the most responsible way.”
Electoral Count Act
The Electoral Count Reform Act also makes an appearance in the bill.
The measure reforms the 1887 Electoral Count Act to clarify the vice president cannot overturn election results when Congress counts Electoral College votes and raises the number of members necessary to raise objections to a state’s electors.
The legislation was drafted in response to the events of Jan. 6, 2021, when then-President Trump urged then-Vice President Mike Pence to block the certification of Joe Biden’s victory by Congress.
Eighteen GOP senators voted with Democrats to pass the bill as part of the larger funding package in what has been seen as a notable rebuke of the former president, who has argued for the 1887 act to remain untouched.
Other GOP senators who voted against the overall package have also thrown support behind the electoral count reforms, including Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who endorsed the bill in an op-ed ahead of the vote.
“In 2021, the theater act went too far and culminated in a mob disrupting the joint session of Congress to certify the presidential election,” Paul wrote in The Louisville Courier-Journal, framing it as a necessary piece of legislation to protect the Electoral College.
Health care and government programs
Democrats have repeatedly acknowledged the bill doesn’t include nearly as much funding for domestic programs as they wanted in their last best chance at molding government funding while they still hold control of both chambers.
But the party has also celebrated some wins.
A list of investments in health care and research includes $47.5 billion for the National Institutes of Health, $9.2 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and $950 million for the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.
Democrats have also pointed to a $13.4 billion increase for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, a boost of $28.5 billion for child nutrition programs, new Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers they say would support over 11,000 additional low-income households, as well as a boost to maximum Pell Grant award.
“While we make critical investments in these bills, they are not perfect. There is much more I wish we could have done—including increase funding for Title X and other family planning programs in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade,” House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said in a statement late Thursday.
“This bill is, however, a bipartisan compromise,” she added. “We have proven that we can and must continue working together for hardworking people everywhere. I am proud of this bill and urge all my colleagues to support it.”
The Senate adopted several last-minute tweaks to the bill on Thursday, as they considered a series of amendments during a marathon voting session before final passage.
The eight amendments adopted include proposals aimed at allowing proceeds from assets seized from sanctioned Russian oligarchs to be put toward Ukraine aid, a measure aimed at strengthening protections for breastfeeding workers and another dealing with compensation for 9/11 victims.
Congress also approved an amendment to provide for the continuation of pay and benefits of Navy Lt. Ridge Alkonis. According to Deseret News, his pay was cut while serving a three-year sentence in a prison in Japan after a car accident that killed two citizens.
The omnibus also included legislation introduced by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) that seeks to prohibit the use of TikTok on government phones and devices. However, the bill had already made it into the package prior to the vote on Thursday afternoon.
The TikTok bill was added after the Senate unanimously approved the bill earlier this month, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) recently expressed support for passing the legislation.
Mike Lillis contributed.
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