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U.S. President Joe Biden signs the $1.7 trillion spending bill

Profile photo: US President Joe Biden
Profile photo: US President Joe Biden

US President Joe Biden signed on Thursday (December 29) a $1.7 trillion spending bill that will keep the federal government operational until the end of the current fiscal year in September 2023 and provide tens of billions of dollars in new aid to Ukraine to fight the Russian army.

Biden must sign the bill by Friday evening to avoid the closure of parts of the government sector.

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed the bill on Christmas Eve by a vote of 225 in favor and 201 against, with a largely partisan vote. The day before, the Democratic-led Senate voted 68 to 29 to pass the bill, which has relatively more Republican support in the Senate than in the House.

Today, I signed the bipartisan omnibus bill, ending a year of historic progress.

It’ll invest in medical research, safety, veteran health care, disaster recovery, VAWA funding – and gets crucial assistance to Ukraine.

Looking forward to more in 2023. pic.twitter.com/KTI1R9qMij

— President Biden (@POTUS) December 29, 2022

Biden has said the passage of the bill proves that Republicans and Democrats can work together.

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, who wants to become speaker when a new Congress begins on Jan. 3, argued in his House speech that the bill spends too much and does too little to curb illegal immigration and fentanyl flowing into the United States.

McCarthy said of the legislation: “This is a massive monster, one of the most shameful acts I’ve ever seen in Congress.

McCarthy is enlisting the support of staunch conservative members of the Republican caucus who have widely slammed the size and scope of the bill. Republicans will narrow the House majority on Jan. 3, with some conservative members vowing not to vote for McCarthy as speaker.

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The spending bill includes increasing spending on domestic initiatives in the U.S. by about 6 percent to $772.5 billion. Defense program spending will increase by about 10 percent to $858 billion.

The bill passed hours before the federal agency’s funding authorization was due to expire. Lawmakers have approved two short-term spending bills to keep the government running, and a third bill was passed last Friday to fund the government until Dec. 30. Biden signed that bill to ensure government service will continue, pending Congress to submit him with a year-covered budget bill known as the Omnibus Spending Act.

The massive 4,000-page bill contains 12 appropriation bills, aid to Ukraine, and disaster relief programs for communities hit by natural disasters. It also contains dozens of policy changes that lawmakers are trying to include in the last major bill before this Congress.

Lawmakers have provided about $45 billion to Ukraine and NATO allies, more than even Biden has requested, amounting to acknowledging that funding may not be guaranteed in future rounds as Republicans win the midterm elections and will take control of the House next week.

While aid to Ukraine has largely bipartisan support, some House Republicans oppose the spending, arguing that it is best spent on priorities within the United States.

McCarthy has warned that Republicans will not write “blank checks” for Ukraine going forward.

The bill also includes about $40 billion in emergency spending, primarily to help communities across the United States recover from droughts, hurricanes, and other natural disasters.

Biden signed the bill Thursday in the U.S. Virgin Islands. He is spending a vacation there with his wife, Jill, and other family members in St. Croix.

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The White House said the Bidens lived at the home of friends Bill and Connie Neville. Bill Neville owns US Viking and is the manufacturer of ENPS, a news production software system sold by The Associated Press.

The bill also includes dozens of policy changes that are largely unrelated to spending, but lawmakers are working hard behind the scenes to add these policy changes to the

bill, the last legislation to come out before the end of the current Congressional term. If they can’t, lawmakers who support the changes will have to start from scratch with a new two-chamber congress next year. In the new Congress, Republicans will regain a majority in the House, while Democrats will continue to control the Senate.

One of the most notable examples is the historic revision of federal election law to prevent future presidents or presidential candidates from attempting to overturn election results.

The bipartisan reform of the Electoral Count Act was a direct response to then-President Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn election results. Trump tried to persuade Republican lawmakers and then-Vice President Mike Pence to oppose officially certifying Biden’s victory on Jan. 6, 2021, the day of the Trump-inspired Capitol rebellion.

Among the spending increases highlighted by Democrats are a $500 increase in the maximum amount of Pell Grants for low-income college students, a $100 million lump sum grant for substance abuse prevention and treatment programs provided to states, a 22 percent increase in health care spending for veterans, and $3.7 billion in emergency relief for farmers and ranchers hit by natural disasters.

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The bill also provides about $15.3 billion in funding for more than 7,200 projects sought by lawmakers for their states and constituencies. Under the revised rules for community program funding, known as an earmark, members of Congress must post their requests online and prove they have no financial interest in the project. Still, many fiscal conservatives criticize that these “special earmarkings” lead to unnecessary spending.

(This article is based on an Associated Press report.)

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