The Senate is poised to approve a massive spending bill on Thursday after a late-night immigration standoff threatened to derail progress on the legislation ahead of a Friday deadline to avert a government shutdown.
“It’s taken a while, but it is worth it,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said on the Senate floor Thursday morning as he announced that an agreement had been reached to proceed to a vote.
The upper chamber has been racing to approve the legislation this week, as a Friday deadline, a winter storm and the Christmas holiday grow near. A visit from President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday also seemed to add urgency to approving the package, with $45 billion in funding for Ukraine to continue its fight against Russian aggression at stake.
But complicating matters on Thursday was the time consuming consideration of a number of amendments to the $1.7 trillion bill, including one from Sen. Mike Lee of Utah that would attempt to keep in place Title 42 – a public health policy that has since the coronavirus pandemic began allowed for the quick expulsion of migrants at the border. The policy was set to expire this week, but the Supreme Court temporarily kept it from ending.
While some Senate Democrats seemed amenable to the proposed amendment, House progressives would likely oppose it, threatening to derail passage of the spending deal in the lower chamber and preventing Congress from funding the government by Friday’s deadline.
Accordingly, the upper chamber proceeded Thursday morning with an agreement to hold votes on a series of amendments on both sides of the issue. The amendments failed, as expected, but gave lawmakers an opportunity to make their positions clear.
Along with the headlining $45 billion in aid for Ukraine, the legislation reforms the Electoral Count Act to clarify procedures for tabulating the presidential vote, includes funding for the PACT Act that bolsters veterans’ health care, and increases money for student Pell Grant recipients, among a number of lower-profile issues – from a ban on TikTok on government devices to an overhaul of cosmetic regulations to protections for the Maine lobster industry.
The bill does not include provisions some had pushed for in recent weeks, such as pandemic aid that the White House had requested, nor does it include an expansion of the child tax credit, or Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia’s permitting reform proposal.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky called the bill “imperfect but strong” on Wednesday, citing funding for the military that would outpace inflation, while noting that Senate Republicans would have handled things differently.
“If Senate Republicans controlled this chamber, we would have handled the appropriations process entirely differently from top to bottom,” McConnell said. “But given the reality of where we stand today, senators have two options this week – just two – we will either give our armed forces the resources and the certainty they need or we will deny it to them.”
Indeed, Republicans have been critical of Democrats’ work on the appropriations process, unveiling the more than 4,000-page spending bill just days ahead of the deadline. But Republicans in the upper chamber have generally been more willing to work with Democrats, while House Republicans have been more defiant in their opposition to the bill.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California agreed with a group of 13 House Republicans earlier this week who said they would oppose the legislative priorities of lawmakers who support the omnibus bill, adding in a tweet that if he becomes speaker, bills from those lawmakers will be “dead on arrival” in the House if the omnibus is approved.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California urged lawmakers to support the omnibus bill when it reaches the House, writing in a letter to House Democrats earlier this week that the legislation is “urgent and necessary.”
Pelosi told reporters on Thursday that the omnibus would take “a number of hours” to reach the House after it passes the Senate, teeing up another late night in Congress.
U.S. News – News