U.S. House approves $1.7T funding package and sends it to Biden; Pa. pols react

WASHINGTON – The US House voted Friday to approve a massive $1.7 trillion government spending package that carries many new initiatives, including an update to how Congress certifies electoral votes for a president and new protections for pregnant workers.

The bipartisan 225-201 vote, with one member voting no, sends the 4,126-page measure to President Joe Biden for his expected signature. An evenly divided US Senate voted 68-29 to approve the bill Thursday after adding several bipartisan amendments to the package.

The vote was sparsely attended and dozens of Democrats and Republicans voted by proxy, an option Democrats implemented during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and which is expected to end in the next Congress the Republicans control the House.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat in his final days as majority leader, spoke in support of the omnibus, but lamented the process that pushed lawmakers against a pre-Christmas deadline that comes nearly three months into the fiscal year. .

“This does not surprise any of us that we have to fund the government of the United States of America,” he said.

Hoyer criticized the US Senate when lawmakers did not debate any of the dozen spending bills in committee or on the floor, before negotiators began working on the catchall omnibus spending package near the end of the year.

A massive $1.7T spending package passes the US Senate with bipartisan support

“This is not the right way to do it, but it must and should be done and it will be done today,” he said.

Hoyer said that “Congress has a responsibility to address issues that undermine the strength and prosperity of American workers and families” and celebrated the spending package that includes nutrition assistance, child care funding, and money to reducing monthly utility bills as well as improving retirement savings. rules.

GOP house fights pack

While Senate Republicans were involved in the negotiations, House Republican leaders chose to recuse themselves from the process, pushing instead to use a stopgap spending bill to hold up talks on the full spending bills until they control the chamber. in January.

Republicans argued during Friday’s floor debate that it was wrong for Congress to pass a government funding package during the lame duck session that falls between the November elections and the new session that begins in January. GOP supporters also opposed much of the spending in the bill and said they didn’t have time to read it, after it was released Tuesday morning.

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U.S. Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, R-14th District, said the omnibus “does nothing to effectively address any of the crises we’re facing right now.”

In statements, other Pennsylvania Republican lawmakers criticized the bill, calling its swift passage this week “irresponsible.”

“While there are some good parts in the bill, overall, I cannot support spending taxpayer money without a thorough review of everything in it,” said U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, R-16th District. “Democrats control both chambers of Congress and the White House, and yet they could not pass this bill in time. Voting “no” is not irresponsible. The way our government rushes to spend taxpayer money without critical oversight is irresponsible. The American people deserve better.”

Retiring US Representative Fred Keller, a Republican whose 12th District seat was withdrawn during redistricting, dismissed the bill as a “reckless” proposal that “imposes an unsustainable debt burden on future generations.”

“The congressional budgeting process is broken, and this 4,000-page spending bill was produced by politicians in Washington who have gone too far. We need to get back to a regular order where we discuss bills and have a transparent process before the American people,” Keller said.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who is seeking the votes to become speaker, said the spending package was “one of the most disgraceful actions I’ve ever seen in this body.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, later disputed that assertion, questioning whether McCarthy had forgotten the attack on the Capitol by pro-Trump rioters on January 6, 2021.

After the sometimes tense debate on Friday, nine House GOP lawmakers ended up voting for the spending package with one Democrat voting against the measure and one abstaining.

Spending increases for the Pentagon, domestic programs

The bill includes $858 billion in defense spending, up from $782 billion during the last fiscal year, and about $773 billion in non-defense funding, up from the $730 billion Congress approved during the last appropriations process.

Those spending levels were broken down in the dozen annual appropriations bills that fund the federal government for fiscal year 2023, which began on Oct. 1. The money will go to dozens of federal departments and agencies, including Agriculture, Defense, Homeland Security, national. parks and public lands, and Transportation.

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The package would provide about $40 billion in additional spending to help communities recover from natural disasters and $45 billion in military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

The legislation includes a bipartisan bill to update and clarify the Election Counting Act of 1887 to strengthen the vice president’s ceremonial role. It also increases the number of legislators needed to challenge Congress certifying state electoral votes for president from one member of each chamber to one-fifth of the members in each chamber.

The measure included a bill that would have banned federal employees from having the social media app TikTok, or any apps from ByteDance Limited on their work phones amid growing concerns about the Chinese government’s access to the data the app collects from the user’s phones.

In a statement, Democratic US Representative Susan Wild highlighted the benefits of the bill for her Lehigh Valley-based 7th Congressional District seat.

That includes:

  • “Significant support for local, state and federal law enforcement to ensure that our communities are well served and protected.
  • Increased support for affordable housing and pathways to home ownership, continued investment in high speed broadband rollout, expanded childcare and early learning opportunities to support working families,
  • “Big wins for America’s workers, including increased funding for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to ensure workers’ rights are protected and investments in job training and apprenticeship programs to equip people with the skills needed to thrive improve people.
  • “Increased funding for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to combat substance abuse and support mental health,
  • “Support preserving good-paying jobs in the area at Lehigh Heavy Forge, Mack Trucks, and Air Products, and
  • “Funding for the Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness program to ensure they have access to the mental health resources they need to continue serving our communities,” Wild’s office said.

“This government funding bill reflects the priorities I’ve long worked to advance for the people of Pennsylvania’s 7th District – lowering health care costs, keeping our promises to seniors and veterans, investing in education and job training, and address the unique needs of our community,” said Wild.

Medicaid gradually, pregnant workers

The package would allow states to begin removing some people from the Medicaid program for low-income individuals as early as April 1. It would also begin phasing out the increase in federal funds that went to keep people on Medicaid during the COVID-19 pandemic. .

Republican governors are pushing to end the public health emergency and the requirement that their states cannot kick people out of the health care program. Twenty-five GOP governors wrote a letter to Biden earlier this week, saying the requirement “negatively affects states” by increasing the number of residents on Medicaid and state investment in the program.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic,” they wrote, “states have added 20 million people to Medicaid rolls (a 30% increase) and those numbers continue to climb as the PHE continues to extend every 90 days. “

The US Senate added eight bipartisan amendments to the package before it was sent to the US House for a final vote.

Senators voted to extend the Fairness for Pregnant Workers Act to ensure “reasonable accommodations” for pregnant people; a bill that extends workplace protections for nursing mothers to millions more not currently covered under the 2010 law; and language that gives local, state and tribal governments flexibility in how they use unspent COVID-19 dollars from the federal government.

The Senate introduced a bipartisan provision that would allow the US Department of Justice through the Secretary of State to send Ukraine proceeds from seized assets of Russian oligarchs or other sanctioned Russian entities.

The US House also agreed on Friday to send a stopgap spending bill to Biden through December 30, which will allow time for Congress to sign the larger omnibus package and for the president to sign it.

The current short-term spending bill expires Friday at midnight, so the additional stopgap bill was needed to avoid a funding lapse or partial government shutdown.

Biden said in a statement released shortly after the vote that the package is “further proof that Republicans and Democrats can come together to deliver for the American people, and I look forward to continued bipartisan progress in the year ahead.” before us.”


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