Senate sends Biden bill to keep gov’t open through Dec. 23

Senate sends Biden bill to keep gov’t open through Dec. 23

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate passed legislation Thursday to fund the government for an extra week as lawmakers must complete work on a full-year spending package before heading home for the holidays and a new one Congress is sworn in.

Congress passed legislation in September to keep the government running until midnight on Friday. The latest extension, which is now headed to President Joe Biden’s desk for the signature of the bill, will fund federal agencies through Dec. 23. It passed by a vote of 71 to 19.

“Negotiations continue to move in the right direction, but we still have work to do and not enough time unless we extend federal funding by another week,” said Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., Senate Majority Leader Calling on legislators to support the emergency solution.

The roughly $1.7 trillion package negotiated would fund ongoing operations of government agencies for the current fiscal year, which began Oct. 1. Federal spending on programs like Social Security and Medicare are not part of the annual allocation process and are not included in the package.

House Republicans have overwhelmingly called for a longer-term extension until early next year so they could play a bigger role in setting spending levels for the agencies. House Democrats were able to advance the bill earlier this week with little GOP support.

But Sen. Mitch McConnell, the top Senate Republican, has argued that passing a full-year spending bill in this Congress is better than the alternatives because it ensures a significant increase in defense spending.

“If a truly bipartisan, year-round, no-toxic-pill bill is ready for final passage by the Senate late next week, I will support it for our armed forces,” McConnell said Wednesday. “Otherwise we’ll make a short-term decision to continue in the new year.”

Some Senate Republicans disagreed with efforts to pass a spending bill before House Republicans could take command. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah., said he supports a short-term extension to next year because it would mean “more Republican priorities” in the final package.

Senator Richard Shelby, the leading Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said the two parties are about $25 billion apart in total spending. However, lawmakers announced Tuesday night that they had agreed on a “framework” that should allow negotiations to be completed by next week.

The final bill is also expected to include the Biden administration’s request for an additional $37 billion in aid to Ukraine, along with other bipartisan priorities, including a ballot measure to prevent another Jan. 6 insurgency. The bill would make it more difficult for lawmakers to object to a given state’s electoral votes and clarify that the vice president’s constitutional role in the process is exclusively ministerial.

Kevin Freking, The Associated Press

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