Lawmakers Unveil Sprawling Spending Bill to Avoid Shutdown
WASHINGTON — Top lawmakers on Tuesday unveiled a sprawling government spending package that would keep the government open through next fall after reaching a compromise on billions of dollars in federal spending, including another round of emergency aid to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia’s invasion.
The legislation would increase federal spending from the last fiscal year, providing $858 billion in military spending and more than $772 billion for domestic programs for the remainder of the fiscal year that ends in September, according to a summary released by Senate Democrats. With Republican support needed for the measure to pass the Senate, Democrats bowed to conservative opposition to approving a larger increase that would have kept funding levels equal for the health, education and other domestic programs that President Biden and his party have prioritized.
The release of the legislation came around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday, just days ahead of a midnight Friday deadline to fund the government or face a shutdown, after lawmakers passed a one-week stopgap funding bill last week to give themselves more time to discuss the bigger spending package.
The package is the last opportunity for Democrats to shape the federal budget while their party controls both chambers of Congress and for several retiring lawmakers to push a final round of pet projects into law. With Republicans set to take control of the House — and vowing to force deep spending cuts — lawmakers in both parties were eager to finish the compromise and remove one possible threat of political brinkmanship.
“The choice is clear: We can either do our jobs and fund the government, or we can abandon our responsibilities without a real path forward,” said Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, calling the bill “undoubtedly in the interest of the American people.”
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Given that the 4,155-page package is the final, must-pass legislation for this Congress, lawmakers stuffed it with dozens of funding priorities and unrelated bipartisan measures, including an overhaul of the electoral vote counting law that former President Donald J. Trump tried to use to overturn the election and a ban on the Chinese-owned TikTok on government devices. The package also includes earmarks, rebranded for a second consecutive year as community project funding, that allow lawmakers to divert some money to specific projects in their districts and states.
The release of the legislation was delayed Monday in part by a prolonged tussle between the Virginia and Maryland delegations over the criteria that will determine a new location for the F.B.I. headquarters, according to four people briefed on the negotiations.
The two states — backed by senior Democrats like Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland and Senator Mark Warner of Virginia — have been in a long-running battle to be the home of the F.B.I. as it plans to move from downtown Washington into the suburbs. After frenzied negotiations, the two delegations agreed to language requiring the government to have detailed consultations with teams from both states before picking a site, a Senate Democratic aide said.
The package also sets aside billions of dollars more for emergency aid, including more than $40 billion for Ukraine, higher than the $37.7 billion the White House requested. It also provides around $40 billion to help communities across the country recover from hurricanes, wildfires and droughts in the last year.
The package also contains a bipartisan measure to overhaul the Electoral Count Act, the archaic statute at the heart of one of Mr. Trump’s unsuccessful efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. And it includes plans intended to improve the nation’s response to future pandemics.
In their effort to secure at least 10 Republican votes to avoid a filibuster, Democrats were forced to abandon a number of priorities, including reviving lapsed expanded payments to most families with children, emergency aid to counter the ongoing toll of the coronavirus pandemic and a bid to lift the cap on the nation’s borrowing limit before an expected deadline next year.
Republicans, led by Senators Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, and Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, the vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, stressed their success in negotiating more funding for the military, as some conservatives balked at the overall spending increase and lamented that they could have had a stronger negotiating hand had party leaders waited until they controlled the House majority.
“Republicans were not going to let our Democratic colleagues demand extra left-wing goodies in exchange for doing their job and funding our troops,” Mr. McConnell said on the Senate floor on Monday before the bill was released. “The president’s own party does not get to take our national defense hostage and demand rewards. I am grateful that our Democratic colleagues backed down and accepted our position.”
Democrats, who muscled through more than $2 trillion over unanimous Republican opposition earlier this congressional session, in turn emphasized their success in shoring up some health care, housing and food programs and protecting other domestic funding priorities, even as they acknowledged that several of their priorities had to be curtailed or left out.
“I’m confident that both sides will find things in it they can enthusiastically support,” said Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, who on Monday noted that staff members had worked through the weekend to finalize the details. Using a legislative term for the bill, he added, “We all know the omnibus will be the best way to ensure that our kids, our veterans, our small businesses and our military continue to have full access to vital services and programs they depend on.”
The measure would also bar TikTok, which is a subsidiary of the Chinese company ByteDance, from government devices, though some federal agencies already ban the app.
The legislation includes a number of health care proposals, including making permanent a plan established in the $1.9 trillion stimulus law that allows women to remain enrolled in Medicaid for a full year after giving birth.
It strengthens Medicaid benefits for other recipients as well, providing five years of funding for Medicaid in Puerto Rico and permanent funding for coverage in other U.S. territories. The bill also offers other protections for Medicaid recipients, ensuring that children in the program and the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program receive a year of continuous coverage after enrollment.
Reporting was contributed by Luke Broadwater, Catrin Einhorn, Erica L. Green, Christina Jewett, David McCabe, Margot Sanger-Katz, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Tara Siegel Bernard and Noah Weiland.