Wicker, Hyde-Smith among 70 Senators voting to move the bill forward. The City of Jackson could see $600 million in emergency funding.
The U.S. Congress looks to pass a $1.7 trillion omnibus bill this week, avoiding a Friday deadline that would shut down the federal government as the current continuing resolution expires.
The legislation would fund the federal government through the end of the fiscal year which ends in September 2023. It also includes policy reforms and specific funding authorizations for select initiatives.
The U.S. Senate hurriedly took up the measure on Tuesday, just hours after the bill was made public.
“Nobody wants a shutdown, nobody benefits from a shutdown, so I hope nobody will stand in the way of funding the government ASAP,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D) said.
The bill was released in the early morning hours as staffers scrambled to compile the over 4,100-page bill that authorizes roughly $858 billion in defense spending and nearly $800 billion in nondefense, domestic spending.
“This is an impressive outcome for the Republican negotiators, and more importantly, it is the outcome that our country actually needs to keep helping Ukraine and our other friends, to keep out-innovating and outcompeting Russia and China and to keep our brave men and women in uniform equipped with the best training, tools, and technologies the world has ever seen,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) said on the Senate floor.
In all, 70 Senators voted to begin debate on the bill. Among those were Mississippi Senators Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith, both Republicans. Nineteen of their Republican colleagues voted to move the bill forward while 25 others voted against taking the bill up.
Senator Wicker said the proposed bill would fully fund the nation’s military and avoid a continuing resolution that would shortchange defense spending.
“Every day we operate under a continuing resolution destroys our military readiness and deterrence and costs our service members hundreds of millions in lost capacity and overruns,” Wicker said. “This legislation fully funds our National Defense Authorization Act while cutting the President’s proposed increase in domestic spending by 50%. It represents the best possible opportunity to end this budget stalemate, avoid a CR, and get our military men and women the resources they need to win.”
Critics in the chamber were quick to note the size and scope of the spending package.
“This monstrous spending bill comes to 4,155 pages,” Utah Senator Mike Lee (R) tweeted. “We deserve proper consideration and the chance to read, debate and amend — not a backroom deal. Opposing this isn’t radical: running our government like this is what’s radical.”
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul (R) decried the bill, saying no Senator has fully read the bill and calling the process an abomination.
“The American people don’t want this. They’re sick and tired of it. They’re paying for it through the nose with inflation. Adding a trillion dollars to the deficit will simply full the fires that are consuming our wages and consuming our retirement plans, ” Paul said.
Among the spending and reforms noted in the bill are:
- 10% increase in defense spending.
- 4.6% pay increase for military service members and Pentagon employees.
- $45 billion in additional aid to Ukraine.
- Nearly $40 billion in disaster relief funds.
- Clarifying the 1887 Electoral Count Act pertaining to the election certification process in the wake of the 2020 election and the January 6, 2021 Capitol riot.
- Banning the use of TikTok on government devices.
In addition, the bill includes $600 million in emergency funding for water infrastructure projects in Jackson, Mississippi’s capital city, which would be administered by a third-party manager appointed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
In November, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi approved a Proposed Stipulated Order assigning an Interim Third-Party Manager to oversee the City of Jackson’s water system, including any federal grants or loans received. This funding would be in addition to two other allocations for Jackson’s water and wastewater infrastructure, bringing the total appropriation for Jackson to $607.6 million for Fiscal Year 2023.
Mississippi Congressman Bennie Thompson (D) praised this portion of the bill, saying he looked forward to supporting the omnibus bill and he was proud to support the funding for Jackson.
Beyond Jackson, Senator Wicker said the year-end funding bill also supports a range of Mississippi infrastructure priorities across the state, including water, wastewater, road, bridge, and internet projects.
Measures that did not make the cut in the Senate spending bill and are not in the legislation are:
- Expansion of the child tax credit.
- Granting citizenship to illegal aliens who entered the U.S. as children, often referred to as “Dreamers.”
- SAFE Banking Act which would have revised federal rules impacting banking for cannabis businesses.
The bill also reduces Internal Revenue Service (IRS) funding by $275 million after the federal agency’s funding level was increased by $8 billion per year for 10 years.
Senators were told to expect a final vote on the spending package by Thursday. At least 10 Republicans must vote to pass the bill for it to clear the Senate threshold before it is sent to the U.S. House for consideration.