Biden signs $1.7 trillion spending bill

 Biden signs $1.7 trillion spending bill

U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday (December 29) signed a $1.7 trillion spending bill that will keep the federal government afloat until the current fiscal year ends in September 2023, And tens of billions of dollars in new aid to Ukraine to fight the Russian military.

Biden has until Friday night to sign the bill to avoid a partial government shutdown.

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed the bill by a 225-201 vote on Christmas Eve, with the vote largely along party lines. A day earlier, the Senate, also led by Democrats, passed the bill by a 68-29 vote, with relatively more support from Republicans in the Senate than in the House of Representatives.

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

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, who hopes to become speaker when the new Congress begins on Jan. 3, argued in a floor floor address on the floor of the House of Representatives that the bill is important in curbing illegal immigration and the flow of fentanyl into the United States. Too much money spent and too little done.

"It's a sprawling monster and one of the most disgraceful acts I've ever seen in Congress," McCarthy said of the legislation, which is

enlisting the support of staunchly conservative members of the Republican caucus who have broadly attacked the size and scope of the Act. Republicans will hold a narrow House majority on Jan. 3, and some conservative members have vowed not to vote for McCarthy as speaker.

The spending bill includes a roughly 6 percent increase in spending on domestic initiatives to $772.5 billion. Spending on defense programs will rise about 10 percent, to $858 billion.

The bill passed hours before the federal agency's funding authority was set to expire. Lawmakers have already approved two short-term spending bills to keep the government afloat and a third on Friday to fund the government until Dec. 30. Biden signed that bill to ensure government services would continue pending Congress sending him the year-round budget bill known as the omnibus spending bill.

Aid to Ukraine

The massive bill of more than 4,000 pages includes 12 appropriations bills, aid to Ukraine, and relief programs for communities hit by natural disasters. It also included dozens of policy changes as lawmakers struggled to include them in the last major bill to consider in this session of Congress.

Lawmakers offered about $45 billion for Ukraine and NATO allies, more than even Biden had asked for, in an acknowledgment that future rounds of funding may not be guaranteed as Republicans win midterm elections and take control of the House of Representatives next week .

While the aid to Ukraine has largely bipartisan support, some House Republicans oppose the spending, arguing that the money is better spent on domestic priorities.

McCarthy has warned that Republicans will not write a "blank check" 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 into law in the U.S. Virgin Islands on Thursday. He is spending time off there with his wife, Jill, and other family members on the island of St. Croix.

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

Policy changes added to the spending bill

The bill also included dozens of policy changes that were largely unrelated to spending, but lawmakers worked hard behind the scenes to add them to the bill. It was the last piece of legislation produced before the end of this Congress' term. Failing to join, lawmakers who support the changes will have to start from scratch next year with a new, divided House of Congress. In the new Congress, Republicans will regain their majority in the House of Representatives, while Democrats will retain control of the Senate.

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

The bipartisan overhaul of the Electoral Count Act was a direct response to attempts by then-President Donald Trump to overturn the election results. Trump sought to persuade Republican lawmakers and then-Vice President Mike Pence to oppose formally certifying Biden's victory on Jan. 6, 2021, the same day as the Trump-inspired Capitol insurrection date of occurrence.

Spending increases highlighted by Democrats include a $500 increase in the maximum amount of Pell Grants for low-income college students, a $100 million increase in block funding to states for substance abuse prevention and treatment programs, veterans' healthcare A 22 percent increase in health care spending and $3.7 billion in emergency relief for farmers and ranchers hit by natural disasters.

The bill also provides roughly $15.3 billion in funding for more than 7,200 projects lawmakers are seeking for their states and districts. Under revised rules for funding community projects, known as earmarks, members of Congress must post their requests online and certify that they have no financial interest in the project. Still, many fiscal conservatives have criticized these "earmarks" for unnecessary spending.

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