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To avoid a government shutdown, the Senate passes a $1.7 trillion spending bill.

The Senate voted Thursday to approve a massive $1.7 trillion government spending bill that will fund critical government operations across federal agencies as well as provide emergency aid to Ukraine and disaster relief. The bill must now be passed by the House as lawmakers race against the clock to avoid a government shutdown at the end of the week.

The expectation on Capitol Hill is that a shutdown will be avoided, but with government funding set to expire at the end of the day Friday, congressional leaders have little room for error. After the House passes the bill, it will be sent to President Joe Biden for signature. The final Senate vote count was 68-29.

To allow for the yearlong bill to be formally processed and sent to Biden sometime next week, the Senate approved a bill by voice vote Thursday afternoon to extend the government funding deadline by one week, to December 30.

The House is expected to approve the one-week extension before voting on the yearlong spending bill on Friday.

Senators reached an agreement in negotiations Thursday morning after the massive government funding bill had been stalled for days due to a GOP amendment regarding Trump-era immigration policy, Title 42, which could have sunk the entire $1.7 trillion legislation in the Democratic-controlled House.

Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah insisted on a vote on his amendment to maintain the immigration policy that allows migrants to be turned back at the border in order to prevent the spread of Covid-19, which Republicans strongly support. Because Lee’s measure was expected to pass with a simple majority, there was concern that it would be added to the government funding bill, despite the fact that several centrist Democrats support extending the policy, only to be rejected in the House.

To break the impasse, Senators Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Jon Tester of Montana proposed an amendment to give moderates another way to vote in favour of extending Title 42, which the administration and most Democrats want to repeal.

Centrist senators such as Tester, Sinema, and West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin can now vote for the competing Democratic measure, demonstrating their support for the policy and easing a politically difficult vote. Both amendments were defeated, as expected. Lee’s amendment to extend Trump’s immigration policy was defeated 47-50. Sinema-Democratic Tester’s alternate version was defeated 10-87.

Senate leaders unveiled the $1.7 trillion yearlong funding bill early Tuesday morning, the result of months of negotiations between top Democratic and Republican congressional leaders. The Senate had hoped to vote on the agreement this week and then send it to the House for approval before the government’s funding expired on December 23.

The massive spending bill for fiscal year 2023, known as an omnibus on Capitol Hill, includes $772.5 billion for non-defense, domestic programmes and $858 billion for defence. It includes approximately $45 billion in emergency aid to Ukraine and NATO allies, as well as approximately $40 billion to respond to natural disasters such as hurricanes, wildfires, and flooding.

Other key provisions in the bill include an overhaul of the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which aims to make it more difficult to overturn a certified presidential election – the first legislative response to the US Capitol insurgency and then-President Donald Trump’s relentless pressure campaign to remain in power despite his 2020 loss. The spending bill also includes the Secure Act 2.0, a package designed to make it easier to save for retirement, as well as a provision prohibiting the use of TikTok on government devices.

The package’s legislative text, which runs more than 4,000 pages, was released in the middle of the night – around 1:30 a.m. ET on Tuesday – leaving little time for rank-and-file lawmakers and the public to review its contents before Congress plans to vote to pass it.

In a divisive political environment where bipartisan action is often impossible without extreme time constraints, it has become the norm on Capitol Hill in recent years to release massive funding bills at the eleventh hour and then proceed to jam them through both chambers. Some lawmakers have criticised the process, claiming that it is rushed and secretive, and that it lacks transparency.

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