March 11, 2022

Facing yet another midnight Friday deadline to avert a government shutdown, the Senate has finally passed an omnibus spending bill to keep the government open through September and provide more aid to Ukraine. It took three stopgap bills and chewed up much of the fiscal year the funding is intended for, but this is what success looks like in the era of one party doing its best to break the government. The bill passed 68 to 31.

Given the time crunch, there was a real danger that any single Republican could hold up the bill and force a government shutdown. In the end, three Republicans got amendment votes, all of which failed, and Sen. Dan Sullivan caused a two-hour delay over what his fellow Alaskan, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, called “some very last-minute edits” he wanted made to language in the Violence Against Women Act. The House passed the bill on Wednesday night, so it goes now to President Joe Biden for his signature.

The bill includes $13.6 billion in Ukraine-related funding, which Republicans complained bitterly was included in the larger bill rather than separated out into a stand-alone they could vote for while holding up funding for the United States government. What it doesn’t include is $15.6 billion in needed COVID-19 funding to be sure the federal government is ready to handle the next variant or next surge with vaccines, therapeutics, and testing. That funding had to be stripped out of the bill on Wednesday when Democrats learned that it would be paid for by clawing back already appropriated COVID-19 funding for 30 states—money that state and local governments were already budgeting around.

Despite Sullivan’s last-minute maneuvering, the bill does also include a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which was allowed to expire in February 2019 and had been the subject of negotiation since, with Republicans moving to protect the right of stalkers and abusers to keep guns if they happen not to be married to their victims. 

Additionally, the bill includes a funding increase, albeit an inadequate one, for the Internal Revenue Service, which badly needs to boost enforcement; $75 million for election security; a $400 increase in the maximum Pell Grant; increases in funding to Head Start and high-poverty K-12 schools; housing funding, including for 25,000 new Housing Choice Vouchers; and an increase in child nutrition programs. That last, though, does not include an extension of funding for schools to give all kids free lunches, after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell decided that feeding kids—or, not feeding them—was a hill he would die on. None of the funding increases are nearly enough. Things like housing and election security and Pell Grants need so, so much more. But in 2022, with a Republican Party committed to obstruction and preventing government spending on things that help kids and struggling families, this is what we get.

Those limits don’t apply to defense spending, though. In total, the bill has $730 billion in non-defense spending and $782 billion in defense spending. How’s that for a statement of priorities? 

Republished with permission from Daily Kos.

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