A $1.66 trillion government spending bill won overwhelming bipartisan support in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday as lawmakers seek passage ahead of a weekend deadline to avert a partial shutdown of federal agencies.
Democratic and Republican negotiators agreed early Tuesday morning on the sweeping bill to fund the federal government through the end of its fiscal year on Sept. 30, increasing funding from about $1.5 trillion last fiscal year.
The Senate voted 70-25 to proceed with debate on the bill, which some Republican senators hope to offer amendments.
On Tuesday, a handful of conservative Senate Republicans voiced opposition to the bill but won’t try to block it.
“Under no circumstances are we going to exceed the deadline for the government shutdown,” said Sen. Mike Lee, who held a news conference with four allies to speak out against the measure. Republican Sen. Mike Braun said the group will step up its budget reform efforts next year, when Republicans take control of the House of Representatives.
The bill includes other measures agreed by negotiators from both parties, such as banning the use of TikTok on government-owned devices and clarifying the role of Congress in certifying elections, an attempt to prevent a repeat of the January 6, 2021 violence.
Senate and House leaders intend to pass the 4,155-page bill and send it to Democratic President Joe Biden for signature before the end of the week to ensure there are no disruptions to government activities.
Tuesday’s vote was the first in a series of steps that pave the way for its passage on Friday.
The Senate’s top Republican, Mitch McConnell, said a majority of his caucus supports him: “We’re moving toward the conclusion of the year’s business. And I think in a very productive way from the point of view of the vast majority of Senate Republicans.”
If not passed in time, there could be a partial government shutdown starting Saturday, just before Christmas, possibly leading to a months-long stalemate after Republicans take control of the House on Jan. 3, breaking Biden’s Democrats’ grip on Congress.
Budget experts criticized the size of the project.
“This budget comes too late and is too big,” said Maya MacGuineas, chair of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. He noted that much of the spending increases are to keep pace with inflation, but said, “A lower figure would help lower inflation.”