By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) – The U.S. Senate agreed Thursday on a $1.7 trillion spending package, including for wartorn Ukraine, to avoid a government shutdown.
The package also involves nearly $50 billion in assistance to Ukraine following an emotionally charged appeal from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who visited the U.S. on Wednesday.
The Senate voted 68 to 29, with three senators abstaining from sending the legislation to the U.S. House of Representatives which was set to take it up as early as Thursday. U.S. President Joe Biden was due to sign the measure just in time for a Friday deadline.
At more than 4,000 pages, the bill funds the government through September and substantially increases spending, providing $858 billion in military funding and more than $772.5 billion for domestic programs.
To win the Republican votes needed for the measure to pass the Senate, however, Democrats agreed to a higher overall increase for military and defense programs.
Critics said Republicans spend more money on these issues than the health care, education, and veterans affairs policies the Democrats champion.
RACING TO VOTE
Lawmakers raced to approve it, many anxious to complete the task before a deep freeze could leave them stranded in Washington for the holidays.
Democrats also wanted to lock in funding before a new Republican-controlled House made it harder to a compromise.
The bull came after the U.S. Congress heard from Ukrainian President Zelensky about the importance of American aid for the war with Russia.
There have been concerns about corruption in his country, but Zelensky tried to play down those fears. “Your money is not charity. It’s an investment in the global security and democracy that we handle in the most responsible way,” Zelensky stressed.
The vote came despite more than a dozen Republican legislators opposing the spending bill. “Kill this terrible bill, or there is no point in pretending we are a united party, and we must prepare for a new political reality,” 13 Republican lawmakers wrote in an open letter.
House minority leader and potential speaker of the House of Representatives in the new U.S. Congress, Kevin McCarthy, published the letter on the social media platform Twitter.
McCarthy, a Republican of California, backed the legislators in warning that any legislative proposal from Republican senators who voted “yes” on the massive spending “will be dead on arrival” if he becomes speaker.
This was the last Senate vote of the 117th Congress as the lawmakers were heading home for Christmas amid concerns about a snowstorm. New members will be sworn into the 118th Congress in January 2023.
The bill moved to the House of Representatives, where was is expected to pass sometime late in the evening on December 22 or early morning on December 23, said outgoing Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The fiscal year ends on September 30, next year.
All 50 Democrat senators were joined by the following 18 Republican senators in voting “yes” on the Omnibus spending bill: Roy Blunt (Mo.), John Boozman (Ark.), Shelley Moore Capito (W. Va.), Susan Collins (Maine), John Cornyn (Texas), Tom Cotton (Ark), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Jim Inhofe (Okla.), Mitch McConnell (Ky.), Jerry Moran (Kan.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Rob Portman (Ohio), Mitt Romney (Utah), Mike Rounds (S.D.), Richard Shelby (Ala.), John Thune (S.D.), Roger Wicker (Miss.), and Todd Young (Ind.).
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