Saturday, February 4, 2023
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U.S. Congress aims to pack additional measures into government funding bill

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EDITOR'S CHOICE

The U.S. Congress faces a tricky task this week as lawmakers try to use a $1.7 trillion government funding bill to also address other priorities, including tweaks to election rules, reforms to drug sentencing and a ban on TikTok from government-owned devices.

Democrats and Republicans alike aim to tuck as many legislative wish-list items as possible into the “omnibus” bill funding the government through the end of its fiscal year on Sept. 30, 2023, without derailing the whole package.

Failure could bring a partial government shutdown beginning Saturday, two days before Christmas, and possibly lead into a months-long standoff after Republicans take control of the House of Representatives on Jan. 3, breaking President Joe Biden’s Democrats’ grip on both chambers of Congress.

“Nobody is going to get everything they want, but the final product will include wins everyone can get behind,” top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer said late Thursday after lawmakers passed a week-long funding bill intended to allow them to finish work on the sprawling omnibus bill.

The full details of that package were being crafted over the weekend, but it will include a record $858 billion for defense — some $45 billion more than Biden proposed — additional aid for Ukraine, and funding for agencies ranging from the Department of Homeland Security to the Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Democrats wanted comparable increases in defense and non-defense spending, which Republicans objected to, saying that Biden’s party had passed several other domestic spending bills during the last two years when they had full control of Congress.

“Republicans simply were not going to lavish extra-liberal spending” on non-defense programs into the omnibus bill, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said last week.

The Senate’s cumbersome rules mean that it could take a few days for the funding bill even to come to a vote, after which the House will need to pass it. The bill will need at least 10 Republican votes to pass the Senate, but can pass the House with just Democratic support before going to Biden for his signature.

Reporting by Richard Cowan and Moira Warburton; Editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis

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