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House passes 4-bill spending package

The House expects to vote on another seven-bill funding package next week. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
The House expects to vote on another seven-bill funding package next week. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

July 25 (UPI) -- The U.S. House has passed a $259.5 billion spending package, hoping to avoid a government shutdown later in the year during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has already rattled the country's economy.

The chamber voted Friday 224-189 on a four-bill package to fund state and foreign operations, agriculture, interior and environment, and military construction and Veterans Affairs.

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The minibus is the first of two funding packages the House hopes to pass this month. A second, seven-bill package worth $1.4 trillion will be up for a vote next week to fund the Pentagon as well as the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, Homeland Security, Justice, Transportation, and Energy.

It's possible, though, Congress will need to pass a stop-gap measure to fully fund the government beyond the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30.

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Friday's package passed largely along party lines, with seven Democrats and the lone Independent voting with Republicans against it.

The bills include funding for the World Health Organization, which President Donald Trump promised to cut funding to; an expansion of rural broadband Internet; foreign assistance for Israel, Egypt and Ukraine; and humanities programs including the National Endowment for the Arts.

The measures block the so-called Mexico City policy preventing funds from going to organizations that offer information on abortion; the Trump administration from using military funds for the border wall; and a rule that makes it difficult for the Environmental Protection Agency to create rules.

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"I am proud that the package also includes strong emergency appropriations to confront coronavirus and support economic recovery, with investments in critical infrastructure and coronavirus preparedness, response and relief domestically and globally," said Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., the chairwoman for the House appropriations committee.

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