Early on Tuesday, congressional leaders unveiled a $1.7 trillion government-wide spending plan that includes another significant round of aid to Ukraine, an increase in defense spending of almost 10%, and about $40 billion to help communities across the nation recover from drought, hurricanes, and other natural disasters.
The 4,155-page bill would fund non-defense discretionary programs with about $772.5 billion and the military with $858 billion through the end of the fiscal year in September.
It was their goal to cram as many priorities as they could into the bulky package, which is probably the final significant piece of legislation for the current Congress. They have until Friday at midnight to pass it, or they risk a possible partial government shutdown leading up to the Christmas holiday.
According to Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, the spending package includes about $45 billion in emergency aid for Ukraine as it fights Russia’s invasion. Above even President Joe Biden’s $37 billion emergency request, it would be the largest American assistance infusion to Ukraine to date and guarantee funding for the war effort for months to come.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer stated that “the bitterness of winter has descended upon Eastern Europe, and if our friends in Ukraine hope to defeat Russia, America must stand firmly on the side of our democratic friends abroad.”
A historic revision to federal election law is also part of the legislation, which is intended to stop any future presidents or presidential candidates from attempting to rig a vote. The Electoral Count Act has undergone a bipartisan overhaul as a direct result of former President Donald Trump’s attempts to persuade Republican lawmakers and then-Vice President Mike Pence to object to the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory on January 6, 2021.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has threatened to seek another short-term fix into the following year if the fiscal year 2023 spending measure does not win bipartisan support this week. This would ensure that the package would be shaped by the new Republican majority in the House.
In the end, the GOP’s negotiations, according to McConnell, were successful. Even though many will undoubtedly vote against it, he presented the longer-term spending bill as a win for the GOP. He claimed that Republicans were successful in exceeding Biden’s request for increased defense spending while reducing some of the increase Biden sought for domestic spending.
The Office of Management and Budget’s director, Shalanda Young, stated in a statement that neither party received everything they sought from the agreement. On the other hand, she praised the legislation, saying that it was “good for our economy, our competitiveness, and our country, and I urge Congress to send it to the President’s desk without delay.”
There will be a 6% increase in non-defense program spending. In order to help pay for an expansion of medical services and benefits for veterans exposed to toxic burn pits while serving, the number includes a 22% increase for VA medical care. The funding increases for organizations like the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Park Service, which they claimed do not keep up with inflation, have been criticized by some environmental advocacy groups.
Negotiations over language pertaining to the location of the FBI’s future headquarters caused a delay in the bill’s introduction. The majority-Black communities should receive their fair share of federal investments, according to Maryland legislators, who have argued that this should be taken into account more carefully during the selection process. They are arguing for one of the two locations in Prince George’s County, Maryland, which has a large Black population. Virginia is vying for the headquarters as well.
Before the spending bill is considered by the House, the Senate is anticipated to vote on it first. To pass, the bill needs the support of at least 10 Republican senators. As with recent catch-all spending bills, lawmakers expressed concerns about hastily passing legislation with thousands of pages.
McConnell claimed that “many of my colleagues” also disapprove of the procedure. But he cited national security concerns for wanting to pass the bill and said failure to do so would “give our Armed Forces confusion and uncertainty” while China pours money into new research and weapons for its military.