House prepares to pass $1.7T spending bill

Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) praised Speaker Nancy Pelosi in what she said was her last speech and perhaps the least of her role, a “maestro with a stick” for hammering out the bill and thanked staff. When it comes to marking the upcoming Christmas holiday, who made it possible?

“Members have flights to catch, presents to wrap, carols to sing, religious services to attend,” she said, adding that the timing reminded her of an English song: “Christmas is coming, the duck is fat, please put a penny. In the old man’s hat.”

Pelosi concluded that the bill was “truly a package for the people.”

As in this bitterly divided Congress, the path to passage of the spending package is winding and slow. Opposition from conservatives lasted several days in the Senate, though Majority Leader Chuck Schumer eventually reached a deal on Thursday that would have prevented a weekend House vote.

Lower-chamber lawmakers were looking forward to approving the bill Thursday night to catch early Friday flights from Washington. But a bureaucratic backlog in processing the 4,000-page bill forced the House to hold its vote until midnight on Friday.

The delays have frustrated some members, who have rebooked and canceled countless flights in the past 24 hours, although many – about 40 percent – have chosen to vote by proxy instead, taking advantage of a pandemic-era measure. The incoming GOP majority plans to nix it. Even more members are expected to vote by proxy on Friday, meaning the year-end House vote will be the thinnest this Congress.

Even the fate of House members’ annual trip to the Middle East to visit U.S. troops for Christmas was in question.

The House won’t take its first vote until just before lunchtime Friday, and while members and staff hope to move quickly, any number of GOP procedural strategies could advance those plans.

The larger issues behind the delay in reaching a spending deal, however, go beyond the floor table. The House passed only half of its appropriations on the floor, while the Senate did nothing in this contentious midterm year.

The two parties didn’t reach an agreement on how much money to spend in total until Dec. 13, delayed by a Senate runoff in Georgia the week before — and even then, they won’t settle on the upper hand. -Expenditure so far this week no.

House Republicans, meanwhile, have refused to participate in government funding talks, with Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy trying to claim the speaker’s chance with a slim majority under intense pressure from his party’s right wing.

In fact, McCarthy has taken a tougher approach toward the bill, including going to the upper chamber before Senate Republicans earlier this week. He used his prerogatives as party leader to speak in the House for about 25 minutes on Friday, denouncing the legislation as “a monstrosity and one of the most shameful acts I have ever seen in this body”.

Privately, however, House Republicans are breathing a sigh of relief that the government funding issue will be off their plate for now, especially as they prepare to enter the majority with a paper-thin majority.

Among other provisions of the Finance Billnearly $45 billion in aid to Ukraine; Bipartisan election reforms aimed at preventing another January 6 attack; Ban on Chinese-owned app TikTok on government devices; and new incentives for retirement savings.

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