Senate hits snag in bid to pass $1.7 trillion spending bill

Washington: Momentum toward passing a $1.7 trillion government funding bill with more aid for Ukraine slowed considerably Wednesday as lawmakers struggled to reach an agreement on amendments needed to get to a final vote and avoid a partial government shutdown at midnight Friday.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the Senate was making progress, but lawmakers exited the chamber late in the evening looking glum and talking of a standoff.

“This bill is hanging by a thread,” said Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del.

At issue is a proposed amendment from Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, seeking to extend pandemic-era restrictions on asylum seekers at the border, also referred to as Title 42.

“Sen. Schumer doesn’t want to have a vote on Title 42 because he presumably knows it will pass,” Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said. But the House won’t go along, he said, and “everything falls apart.”

The impasse came just hours after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy sought to assure lawmakers during a joint meeting of Congress that the aid the U.S. is providing was much appreciated and could “speed up our victory.” He projected confidence throughout and even told lawmakers in his closing: “Merry Christmas and a happy victorious New Year.”

“Your money is not charity. It’s an investment in the global security and democracy that we handle in the most responsible way,” Zelenskyy said.

The measure includes $44.9 billion in emergency assistance to Ukraine and NATO allies, above even President Joe Biden’s request, and ensures that funding flows to the war effort for months to come. The measure would also boost U.S. defense spending by about 10% to $858 billion, addressing concerns from some lawmakers that more investment in the nation’s military is needed to ensure America’s security.

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