US Senate passes $1.7tn spending bill that includes new aid for Kyiv

The US Senate has approved $1.7tn annual spending bill to avoid a government shutdown and release $45bn in additional funds to support Ukraine, the day after a stirring plea from Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the country’s president.

The vote on Thursday came after senators resolved a dispute over immigration policy that initially delayed consideration, and sends the bill over to the House of Representatives for a vote. Lawmakers from both parties expressed a desire to rush home for the holidays as winter storms snarl up travel across the country.

The bill’s $45bn in emergency assistance for Ukraine is even more than the Biden administration had initially requested. In a speech to a joint meeting of Congress on Wednesday evening, Zelensky said it was “not charity. It’s an investment in the global security and democracy that we handle in the most responsible way.”

The funding will in part directly assist the Ukrainian military and deliver humanitarian aid to the country as it fends off the Russian invasion. It will also replenish US stocks of equipment provided to Ukraine and other parts of the American response to the war

The legislation, known as an omnibus bill, also includes nearly $773bn in domestic funding and more than $850bn for the US military. The spending measures will fund the US government through next September, the end of the 2023 fiscal year, averting any shutdown of federal operations until then.

The $850bn in military funds represents a 10 per cent increase in defence spending, and includes what Republicans described as the largest-ever research and development budget of $139.7bn, which will fund work on new warfighting technologies like hypersonic missiles. It will also pay for the construction of 11 new ships and the restoration of 19 joint strike fighters, as well as repairs to other military aircraft.

On the non-defence front, the legislation includes provisions to reform the presidential electoral college count and shield it from political interference following the January 6 2021 attack on the US Capitol, as well as a measure to ban the use of TikTok on federal government devices.

However, it does not include an increase in the US debt limit, setting up a possible showdown between the Republicans and the White House in 2023, raising the risk that America could come close to defaulting on its debt. Republicans have already suggested they would only raise the limit if Democratic agreed to deep spending cuts, which will probably be unacceptable to President Joe Biden and his party.

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