Senate Approves ‘Minibus’ Spending Measure, Avoiding Shutdown

Credits: Fox News

The Senate passed a $467.5 billion “minibus” spending bill on Friday evening to prevent a government shutdown, sending the measure to President Biden’s desk just before the midnight deadline.

The package passed 75-22, with 21 Republicans voting in opposition and just one Democrat. It includes funding until Sept. 30 for various departments and agencies, including the Departments of Veterans Affairs, Agriculture, Transportation, Commerce, Justice, and Housing and Urban Development, as well as the Food and Drug Administration and military construction.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced the vote series, stating, “After months of hard work, we have good news for the country. We will keep important programs funded for moms and kids, for veterans, for the environment, for housing and so much more.”

US Senate (Credits: Source New Mexico)

Senate president pro tempore Patty Murray (D-Wash.) praised the bill for “protecting vital funding” and avoiding a “senseless shutdown.”

However, conservative Senate Republicans opposed the package for containing more than 6,000 earmarks, with Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) referring to it as the “Schumer minibus.” Despite this, the procedural vote was supported by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and 13 Republicans.

The House of Representatives had approved the bill 339-85 on Wednesday. It required 60 votes to clear the Senate. Funding for the Pentagon, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, and the State Department would have run out at 11:59 p.m. March 22 if another spending package wasn’t passed.

In a joint statement last month, Schumer, Murray, and McConnell vowed the spending would be enacted on time. The bill also includes various other provisions, including a $1 billion increase to the women, infants and children (WIC) food program for low-income applicants and warded off Republican policy riders, including a ban on access to the abortion pill mifepristone.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) criticized Republicans for a provision that “rolls back the firearms background check system,” stating it could result in 20,000 new seriously mentally ill individuals being able to buy guns each year.

Despite the bill’s passage, concerns remain about the national debt, which currently sits at $34.4 trillion, and deficit spending of $532 billion so far in fiscal year 2024. Inflation has cooled to around 3%, but remains above pre-pandemic levels.

The bill also includes cuts to various agencies, including a 10% cut to the Environmental Protection Agency, a 7% cut to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and a 6% cut to the FBI.

It also bans the sale of oil from the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve to China and prohibits the Justice Department from investigating parents who exercise their free speech rights at school board meetings.

I'm Richard Rosales, I cover political news and ongoing US elections.