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US Senate passes $1.7 trillion government funding bill

The US Capitol building in Washington, DC. (File photo by Reuters)

The United States Senate has reached a last-minute deal just before Christmas to keep the government funded through the next fiscal year.

The chamber passed the $1.7 trillion government funding bill on Thursday in a 68-29 vote getting one step closer to averting a shutdown late Friday night.

Eighteen Republicans joined Democrats in approving the bill that would keep federal agencies operational through Sept. 30, 2023.

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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, in a news conference after the vote, said it took "a lot of hard work, a lot of compromise, but we funded the government with an aggressive investment in American families, American workers, American national defense."

"It is one of the most significant appropriations packages we've done in a really long time," Schumer said.

The legislation will now go to the US House of Representatives on Friday for approval before making its way to President Joe Biden's office for his John Hancock to make the bill into law.

The legislation includes $772.5 billion for nondefense discretionary programs and $858 billion in defense funding, according to a bill summary from Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, chair of the Senate Committee on Appropriations.

The sweeping package includes roughly $45 billion in emergency assistance to Ukraine and NATO allies, boosts in spending for disaster aid, college access, child care, mental health and food assistance, more support for the military and veterans and additional funds for the US Capitol Police, according to Leahy’s summary and one from Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee. It also includes several major Medicaid provisions, including one that could disenroll up to 19 million people from the nation’s health insurance program for low-income Americans.

However, the bill, which runs more than 4,000 pages, left out several measures that some lawmakers had fought to include. An expansion of the child tax credit, as well as multiple other corporate and individual tax breaks, did not make it into the final bill. Neither did legislation to allow cannabis companies to bank their cash reserves, known as the Safe Banking Act.

The spending package did not include a White House request for roughly $10 billion in additional funding for COVID-19 response.

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Also not included in the spending bill was the Afghan Adjustment Act, which would have helped Afghan allies who run the risk of deportation from the US.

It would have given those evacuees a pathway to lawful permanent residency before their temporary status, known as humanitarian parole, expires in 2023. Many congressional Republicans raised concerns about vetting and other issues, but the legislation’s supporters, including former US military leaders, argued those worries have been addressed.

Legislation to extend and expand Special Immigrant Visas for Afghans who worked with the US during the war there and want to come to America is included in the spending bill.

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