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Deal reached on amendments, omnibus motors towards passage

Agreement would give Democrats a ‘side by side’ amendment on Title 42, border funds

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz., walks to the Senate floor for a vote in the Capitol on Tuesday, December 13, 2022.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz., walks to the Senate floor for a vote in the Capitol on Tuesday, December 13, 2022. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate is set to vote on final passage of the sprawling $1.7 trillion fiscal 2023 omnibus on Thursday after senators resolved a dispute over Trump-era border restrictions during the public health emergency.

Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said Thursday morning that a time agreement had been reached. Following votes on 15 omnibus amendments and a disaster aid measure proposed by Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., the Senate will vote on final passage later today. 

“It’s taken a while, but it is worth it,” Schumer said. He cautioned senators to remain in their seats so they can wrap up swiftly and get the measure (HR 2617) over to the House, which could clear it as soon as Thursday.

The last holdup was over pandemic-era asylum restrictions that the Biden administration is aiming to lift. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, introduced an amendment to bar the administration from ending the Title 42 policy and wanted a simple majority threshold for adoption of the amendment, while Democrats wanted to raise the bar to 60 votes. 

Sens. Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz., and Jon Tester, D-Mont., proposed an amendment that, in addition to blocking funds for ending Title 42, would appropriate $8.7 billion for border security and migrant care. While Lee’s amendment was a simple majority threshold, the Sinema-Tester amendment required 60 votes. 

The arrangement defused what could have been a holdup on the House side if an amendment to keep Title 42 in place were adopted. The chamber overwhelmingly rejected the Sinema-Tester measure, 10-87, but it gave wavering Democrats cover to reject the Lee amendment, which went down on a 47-50 vote. 

Scott’s bill would pull the disaster relief provisions out of the omnibus and proposes the funding as a stand-alone bill. It was rejected on a 22-73 vote.

Amendments with a 60-vote threshold are: 

  • An amendment by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., to raise the 60-vote threshold for waiving budget points of order under the 1974 law establishing the modern budget process. The amendment was rejected, 34-63.
  • A Ron Johnson, R-Wis., amendment to remove border management funds used to transport migrants. The Senate turned back Johnson’s amendment on a 47-50 vote.
  • A Bill Cassidy, R-La., amendment to attach a bipartisan bill he co-authored with Bob Casey, D-Pa., that would put in place protections for pregnant workers against workplace discrimination. The amendment was adopted on a 73-24 vote.
  • A second-degree amendment to Cassidy’s from Mike Braun, R-Ind. It was rejected, 40-57.
  • A proposal from John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Alex Padilla, D-Calif., to give state and local officials more flexibility in how they spend coronavirus relief dollars. It was adopted by voice vote.
  • A Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., amendment to authorize the administration to use the seized assets of Russian oligarchs to provide aid to the Ukrainian people. It was adopted by voice vote.
  • An amendment from Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., to require employers to provide employees with space in the workplace and time off to pump breast milk. It was adopted on a 92-5 vote.
  • An amendment from Lee and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., to increase merger filing fees was adopted 88-8. 
  • A Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., amendment to provide $1 billion to the World Trade Center Health Fund for first responders who got sick after the 9/11 cleanup effort and extend the program to 2027. It was adopted 90-6.
  • An amendment proposed by Sens. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Tom Cotton, R-Ark., to provide $6 billion in compensation payments to a fund of victims of state-sponsored terror, from 9/11 families to families of victims of the 1983 Marine barracks bombing in Beirut. It was adopted 93-4.

Amendments that will require a simple majority for adoption include the following:

  • An amendment proposed by Johnson to eliminate earmarks from the bill. The bill includes $15.3 billion for 7,234 earmarked projects. It was rejected on a 34-63 vote.
  • A Lee amendment to extend pay and benefits for Navy Lt. Ridge Alkonis, who is serving time in a Japanese prison for killing two people in a 2021 car crash. It was adopted by voice vote.
  • A second-degree amendment to Cassidy’s proposed by Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla. was rejected 44-53. 

Final passage Thursday in the Senate paves the way for the House to pass the bill ahead of government spending expiring at midnight on Friday. 

The package includes $858 billion in defense spending, a nearly 10 percent increase over the previous fiscal year, $787 billion in nondefense spending and $85 billion in supplemental funding for Ukraine and disaster relief. 

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