WASHINGTON — The House voted Friday to finalize a massive $1.7 trillion government funding bill, sending it to President Joe Biden and marking the end of two years of Democrat control of both houses of Congress.
The package contains a major increase in military spending and nearly $45 billion in aid to Ukraine. He overhauled federal election law by revising the Voter Count Act of 1887 to try to prevent another January 6. The bill also funds a series of national programs, avoid a shutdown and maintain government funding until next fall.
The vote was 225 to 201, largely on partial lines. Nine Republicans voted for the measure, one Democrat voted against and one member, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., voted present.
“We have a big bill here, because we have great needs for our country,” outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on the floor. “At the same time – please put a dime in the old man’s hat – we are meeting the needs of working American families, with special attention to our children.”
The legislation passed the Senate on Thursday by a vote of 68 to 29.
Biden defended the bill. In a statement after it was passed, he called it “good for our economy, our competitiveness and our communities” and pledged to sign it “as soon as it hits my desk”.
Biden also thanked Senate negotiators “for finding a compromise to strengthen our democracy in the face of election denial and attacks on our core constitutional values.”
The measure was brokered by Democratic leaders and top Senate Republicans, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. It exposed a sharp split between Republicans in both chambers, with House GOP leaders battling to torpedo it.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, blasted the legislation and the process by which it was crafted, calling it “a slap in the face to every American who voted” to elect a Republican majority in the House in the 2022 elections.
“It’s a monstrosity,” he said before the vote, arguing he’s spending too much. “This is one of the most shameful acts I have ever seen.”
“You didn’t do anything but put politics before the American people. So you know what? They fired you. They fired you,” he said, claiming there were “some money for revival” in the bill.
And the rhetoric has become more passionate. Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., a member of the right flank of the GOP caucus, said Democrats are “destroying our country.”
The divisions foreshadow two tough years for Republicans as they oversee a razor-thin House majority and face a Democratic-led Senate and Biden’s presidency.
The electoral revisions in the bill would make it very clear that the vice president cannot ignore electoral votes, and the measure would raise the threshold for opposing their count from one member from each house to one-fifth from each house. .
Democrats wanted a broader set of ballot and election laws, but they were limited by Senate rules that required at least 10 Republican votes to defeat a filibuster.
“It’s a good step,” Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., a member of the Jan. 6 select committee, said in an interview. “I want the Electoral College abolished, and I want the Voting Rights Act fixed, and I want criminal penalties for the intimidation of election workers. So I think that would be the way to go. But I’m not opposed to saying that the vice president can’t run away with the ball and declare the loser the winner.
In an interview, McConnell told NBC News it was “extremely important” to him to increase military spending above non-defense domestic spending, describing it as essential to combating China.
“We didn’t just need to help Ukraine, we also needed, within the framework of the defense budget, to increase it considerably so that the baseline for next year would be even greater” , McConnell, R-Ky. “We have spent a huge amount of money on national priorities over the past few years. Some of them are justified during the pandemic. But the current emergency is not there, it is there.
McConnell also acknowledged his differences on the bill with McCarthy, who is courting votes from the right wing of the GOP to become Speaker of the House in a few weeks.
“I have a really good relationship with McCarthy, but he has a tough hand to play,” McConnell said. “We all want him to succeed and hope he does.”
Kate Santaliz and ryan noble contributed.