KINGSHILL (US), Dec 30 (AP): President Joe Biden on Thursday signed a USD 1.7 trillion spending bill that will keep the federal government operating through the end of the federal budget year in September 2023, and provide tens of billions of dollars in new aid to Ukraine for its fight against the Russian military.
Biden had until late Friday to sign the bill to avoid a partial government shutdown.
The Democratic-controlled House passed the bill 225-201, mostly along party lines, just before Christmas. The House vote came a day after the Senate, also led by Democrats, voted 68-29 to pass the bill with significantly more Republican support.
Biden had said passage was proof that Republicans and Democrats can work together.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader who hopes to become speaker when a new session Congress opens on Jan. 3, argued during floor debate that the bill spends too much and does too little to curb illegal immigration and the flow of fentanyl into the U.S. from Mexico.
“This is a monstrosity that is one of the most shameful acts I’ve ever seen in this body,” McCarthy said of the legislation.
McCarthy is appealing for support from staunch conservatives in the GOP caucus, who have largely blasted the bill for its size and scope. Republicans will have a narrow House majority come Jan. 3 and several conservative members have vowed not to vote for McCarthy to become speaker.
The funding bill includes a roughly 6% increase in spending for domestic initiatives, to USD 772.5 billion. Spending on defense programs will increase by about 10%, to USD 858 billion.
Passage was achieved hours before financing for federal agencies was set to expire. Lawmakers had approved two short-term spending measures to keep the government operating, and a third, funding the government through Dec. 30, passed on last Friday. Biden signed it to ensure services would continue until Congress sent him the full-year measure, called an omnibus bill.
The massive bill, which topped out at more than 4,000 pages, wraps together 12 appropriations bills, aid to Ukraine and disaster relief for communities recovering from natural disasters. It also contains scores of policy changes that lawmakers worked to include in the final major bill considered by that session of Congress.
Lawmakers provided roughly USD 45 billion for Ukraine and NATO allies, more than even Biden had requested, an acknowledgment that future rounds of funding are not guaranteed when Republicans take control of the House next week following the party’s gains in the midterm elections.
Though support for Ukraine aid has largely been bipartisan, some House Republicans have opposed the spending and argued that the money would be better spent on priorities in the United States.
McCarthy has warned that Republicans will not write a “blank check” for Ukraine in the future.
The bill also includes about USD 40 billion in emergency spending, mostly to help communities across the U.S. as they recover from drought, hurricanes and other natural disasters.
Biden signed the bill on Thursday in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where he is spending time with his wife, Jill, and other family members on the island of St. Croix. The Bidens are staying at the home of friends Bill and Connie Neville, the White House said. Bill Neville owns US Viking, maker of ENPS, a news production software system that is sold by The Associated Press.