Senate passes $1.7T spending bill, including Ukraine aid, getting one step closer to averting shutdown

The must-pass legislation now goes to the House for final approval.

(ABC NEWS)—The Senate on Thursday reached a last-minute deal on a sprawling $1.7 trillion package to keep the government funded through the next fiscal year — and send more aid to Ukraine — while getting one step closer to averting a shutdown just before the holidays.

The chamber voted 68-29 to pass the omnibus spending bill after speeding through votes on 17 amendments. Some Republicans joined Democrats in approving the bill that will keep federal agencies operational through Sept. 30, 2023.

The legislation will now go to the House for approval before making its way to President Joe Biden’s desk.

The administration has signed off on the package despite it not including everything officials requested, such as more COVID-19 funding.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said at her weekly press conference that the “hope” is the House can pass the bill on Thursday night but noted it takes several hours for it to pass between chambers.

Lawmakers have been scrambling to get the bill across the finish line both before Friday’s midnight deadline and before a powerful winter storm unleashes blizzard conditions and severe cold, making their travel home difficult.

“We want people to be able to go home,” Pelosi told reporters. “But as you know there are storms across America. Hopefully this will be a motivation.”

The legislation includes disaster relief, medical services for military veterans, a ban of the use of TikTok on government-issued devices and reforms to the Electoral Count Act to avoid a repeat of the Jan. 6 attack.

Also included is $45 billion in humanitarian, economic and security assistance for Ukraine amid Russia’s ongoing invasion. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a historic visit to Washington this week to make the case for continued aid, telling U.S. lawmakers the money “isn’t charity.”

“It’s an investment in the global security and democracy that we handle in the most responsible way,” Zelenskyy said.

How the deal happened

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., announced Thursday morning an agreement had been struck to expedite the process of passing the omnibus spending bill.

“It’s taken a while, but it is worth it and I appreciate the cooperation of everyone here,” Schumer said in remarks on the floor. Just before the final vote, Schumer said the bill is “one of the most significant appropriations packages we have done in a very long time.”

Negotiations hit a snag over an amendment from Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, that would have reinstated Title 42 — the Trump-era order used to rapidly expel migrants since the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak on the basis of public health concerns.

Title 42 was scheduled to lift earlier this week, but Chief Justice John Roberts temporarily stopped the lifting of the immigration restriction as the Supreme Court considers a request from Republican-led states to keep the policy in place.

Enough Democrats supported the Lee amendment that it likely would have passed, and doomed the whole bill to fail in the House.

To push the legislation forward, Democratic leadership crafted a work around by voting on two amendments related to Title 42. The one brought forward by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and Democratic Sen. Jon Tester would’ve preserved Title 42 but included money for humanitarian assistance and border security and required 60 votes to pass. The other, brought forward by Lee, required 51 votes to pass.

Neither Title 42-related amendment passed.

But several of the other proposed amendments did pass, and will be included in the version of the omnibus bill being sent to the House.

Those amendments include the PUMP Act, which expands breastfeeding accommodations in the workplace and the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which ensures people with limitations related to pregnancy or childbirth are not forced out of the workplace.

Senators also approved an amendment that will allow states and local jurisdictions to repurpose COVID-19 relief money for infrastructure, disaster relief or other issues.

A measure known as 9/11 Responder and Survivor Health Funding Correction Act that funds a shortfall in the 9/11 first responder fund called the World Trade Center Healthcare Program was also passed as an amendment to the omnibus bill, as was a bill to authorize $2.7 billion in compensation payments to the families of victims of the 9/11 terror attacks, the Beirut Marine barracks bombing and all victims of terrorism.

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