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Senate approves $1.5 trillion spending bill ahead of shutdown deadline

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Senate approves $1.5 trillion spending bill ahead of shutdown deadline
The Senate voted 68-31 to approve a $1.5 trillion government funding bill. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo

March 10 (UPI) -- The Senate voted Thursday to pass a $1.5 trillion government funding bill and avoid a potential shutdown.

The bill, which includes fiscal year 2022 appropriations bills to keep the government running, passed by a 68-31 vote Thursday night and will head to President Joe Biden's desk for his signature.

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Biden must sign the bill by Friday to avoid a government shutdown. Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said the president "looks forward" to doing just that.

"The bipartisan bill proves once more that members of both parties can come together to deliver results for the American people," she said late Thursday in a statement.

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Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., also touted the fact that the bill contained $13.6 billion in aid for Ukraine including funding for humanitarian, defense and economic assistance.

"The people of Ukraine need our immediate help and this omnibus is the quickest and most direct way of getting them the help fast," he said. "The Ukrainian people are fighting for their lives and fighting for the survival of their young democracy. Congress has a moral obligation to stand behind them as they resist the evils of [Russian President] Vladimir Putin and his campaign of carnage."

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Republicans led by Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., sought to push a vote for a standalone Ukraine bill but Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., warned separating the funding from the omnibus bill would slow the funds down as the House, which has already departed from Washington for the week, would have to vote to pass it.

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Senators also voted down three Republican-backed amendments, including one from Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, to defund federal vaccine mandates and Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., to strip earmarks out of the bill.

The bill also includes a provision to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, a key part of Biden's agenda.

Schumer criticized the fact that the bill did not include COVID-19 funding, after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Wednesday announced a provision that would use money from states that did not make use of funding provided to them under the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan to offset the cost was stripped after bipartisan opposition.

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"I am deeply disappointed that the administration's request for more COVID funding failed to make it into the House bill but we're going to keep fighting to make sure we get that money approved as soon as possible," he said.

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Biden also called on Congress to provide funds for the COVID-19 response.

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