WASHINGTON – The House approved a $1.7 trillion spending package Friday, a day after the Senate adopted the sweeping bill despite a last-minute tussle between Republicans and Democrats over southern border policies.
The House vote, which provides funding of domestic and foreign programs through Sept. 30, took place only hours before the government would have run out of money and would have had to initiate a partial federal shutdown.
The bill now heads to President Joe Biden for his signature.
On Thursday, the Senate added a list of amendments to the hefty spending package during their hours-long voting session, including legislation that provides new workplace protections for pregnant and breast-feeding workers.
The bipartisan legislation allocates $772.5 billion for non-defense discretionary programs and $858 billion in defense funding, including record amounts for domestic programs and defense priorities, according to the bill’s summary. It also bans TikTok from government-issued devices, expands retirement savings options for Americans, and overhauls electoral procedures to avoid a repeat of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.
Also included in the bill is about $45 billion in additional emergency assistance to Ukraine, which Congress approved after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed a joint session of Congress.
“Your money is not charity,” Zelenskyy told lawmakers, including some Republicans wary of sending a “blank check” to Ukraine when they take over the House in January. “It’s an investment in the global security and democracy that we handle in the most responsible way.”
That impassioned speech failed to sway Tennessee GOP Rep. Tim Burchett, who called the spending bill “full of garbage” and explicitly criticized the aid to Ukraine.
“That works out to about $200 million per congressional district,” he said on the House floor Friday morning before the vote. “I wonder what we could have spent that on back in east Tennessee.”
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., pushed back on Burchett’s broadside.
“This sweeping package is anything but garbage, as the previous speaker intoned,” Hoyer said. “It is in fact the essence of supporting our national security, our domestic security, and the welfare of our people. That is not garbage.”
Despite running more than 4,000 pages, the spending package left out several measures demanded by progressive advocates, including the extension of a more generous child tax credit and legislation known as the EQUAL Act that would eliminate federal sentencing disparities between drug offenses involving crack cocaine and powder cocaine.
A look at some of the bill’s most notable provisions:
A TikTok ban and Ukrainian aid: What made the cut?
- TikTok ban: The spending bill requires the Biden administration to establish guidelines to remove TikTok from government devices over concern of the social media platform’s Chinese parent company ByteDance. This ban comes just as a number of state have recently ordered restrictions on TikTok on government devices amid warnings that the Chinese government could require ByteDance to provide user data collected by the app.
- Electoral Count Act: Legislation to reform the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which was at the center of former President Donald Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election results, was among the pieces of legislation included in the sweeping spending bill. The bill, an effort to prevent a repeat of the chaos engulfing the Jan. 6 certification of the Electoral College tabulation, would send appeals directly to the U.S. Supreme Court and makes clear the vice president’s role in overseeing the count is solely ceremonial.
- Ukrainian aid: Lawmakers approved about $45 billion in emergency assistance to Ukraine, $8 billion more than the requested $37 billion by Biden, according to Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. The U.S. has already provided $68 billion in military, economic and humanitarian aid to Ukraine since the Russian invasion.
- Increased defense spending: Defense spending would rise nearly 10% including a pay raise for troops increases in housing and food allowances for military families and increased funding for public school constructions on military bases. The bill also allocated more than $106.2 million to repair military facilities damaged by hurricanes Ian and Fiona.
- Secure Act: Congress made changes to laws on retirement benefits, including allowing employers to count their employees’ student loan payments toward their retirement match. The Secure Act also increases in the age Americans are required to begin withdrawing from tax-deferred retirement accounts. Part-time workers will get better access to retirement benefits under the measure.
- Disaster aid: Lawmakers also approved roughly $40 billion to help communities recovering from a range of national disasters, including $1.67 billion for wastewater treatment and drinking water facilities impacted by hurricanes Ian and Fiona.
- Workplace protections: Congress also passed measures that would add protections for pregnant workers, including the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which requires employers to provide basic accommodation for pregnant employees. The PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act, which will grant workers the right to a break to express milk, also passed. Both bills were added to the larger spending bill as amendments.
Larger child tax credit nixed: What was left out?
- Child tax credit: Despite being a top priority for Democrats, a child tax credit expansion that began in response to the COVID pandemic was not included in the sweeping spending bill. Democratic lawmakers sought to revive the temporary expansion of the program featured in the American Rescue Plan, which lowered eligibility requirements so lower-income families could qualify for the credit.
- EQUAL Act: Legislation to eliminate federal sentencing disparities between drug offenses – specifically crack cocaine vs. powder cocaine – failed to make the final cut. The bill, which passed the House in September 2021, would have established the same quantity thresholds – and criminal offenses and penalties – for both substances.
- SAFE Banking Act: The Safe and Fair Enforcement Banking Act, which cannabis industry has long sought, also failed to make $1.7 trillion. It would have given cannabis businesses access to additional financial services, including digital transactions. The House had passed this bill in April 2021 for the fifth time.
- Big Tech regulation: Despite the bipartisan support to restrict the power of corporations, a string of antitrust reform legislation was also left out of the spending package. The Open App Markets Act, which would impose additional regulations on app stores, was among the bills left on the chopping block.
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