US Congress rushes to pass $1.5 trillion spending bill

US Congress rushes to pass $1.5 trillion spending bill

US Congress rushes to pass $1.5 trillion spending bill

The U.S. Congress is racing to pass a mammoth $1.5 trillion legislative package that would fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year and deliver badly needed humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

The bill, approved by the House of Representatives at night on March 9, will rush $13.6 billion in U.S. aid to battered Ukraine and its European allies, after top Democrats were forced to abruptly drop their plan to include fresh funds to battle COVID-19.

The House approved the overall bill in two separate votes. The measure’s security programs were overwhelmingly approved by 361-69, the rest by 260-171, with most Republicans opposed. The bill is expected to be rubber-stamped by the Senate.

Nearly $4 billion is included for rural development programs, which invests over $550 million in the expansion of broadband service. This is an addition to the $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that became law last November.

The funding bill provides $14.3 billion to the Treasury Department, including $12.6 billion devoted to the IRS, which is the largest increase to the tax agency since 2001. The White House has said the agency has not been equipped to serve taxpayers.

The measure dedicates $35.2 billion overall for the Department of Justice, which includes FBI funding of $10.77 billion and a $506.4 million increase in grants to state and local law enforcement.

The bill provides $14.8 billion for U.S. Customs and Border Protection and $8.26 billion for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and $409.5 million to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The Environmental Protection Agency will receive a total of $9.56 billion and the Department of Energy would get $44.9 billion. Notably, the spending bill includes $100 million to bolster environmental justice activities, an $83 million increase above the 2021 enacted level. Environmental justice addresses equity and pollution issues that impact marginalized communities.

The bill provides $782 billion for defense spending, an increase of $32.5 billion above fiscal year 2021.

The House planned to vote next week on a separate measure providing the full $15.6 billion for pandemic programs, without cutting state aid. It was expected to pass but to likely face fatal Republican opposition in the Senate.

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