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NEWS | Congress Prepares for Final Votes of the 117th Session

Before its wheels up, Congress is getting down to business to address federal spending through next September.

UPDATE: The House passed the omnibus spending package Thursday afternoon, largely along party lines 225-201. The legislation will fund the government through fall next year, signed into effect by President Biden on Jan. 31, 2022, from his vacation dwelling in St. Croix over the holiday. Up next in Congress: debates on the debt ceiling.

Following passage of a one-week continuing resolution (CR) spending bill last week, yesterday afternoon, the Senate passed its version of a longer-term $1.7 trillion omnibus spending package to fund the government through Sept. 30, 2023.

The bill includes funding for more than 7,500 special interest projects across Members of Congress’ Districts and home States, some $2 billion in aid for Ukraine, $850 billion for the military, and $773 billion for American domestic programs. The House is set to vote on the legislation as soon as today.

Among the standard rhetorical complaints from Congress, several Members from both parties in the House said they would not support the spending package out of principle, standing firm in their beliefs of the importance of returning to regular order for approving and authorizing the 12 standalone appropriations bills.

The omnibus in its current form includes provisions from expanding Medicaid benefits, to enacting policies meant to help Americans save for retirement, including provisions intended to: 1) boost savers’ credit by creating a type of government match program for low-income retirement savers, and 2) expand automatic enrollment in retirement plans.

The bill also includes a few small-business wins:

  • Inclusion of the Securing a Strong Retirement Act of 2022 and the Enhancing American Retirement Now (EARN) Act, two bipartisan bills that will make it easier and fairer for small-business owners and their employees to save for retirement;

  • Incentives for small businesses to start pension plans;

  • An increase in minimum distribution age of savers from 72 to 75 and increase the amount of so-called “catch-up” contributions; and

  • The ability for employers to treat payments of student loans as retirement contributions for matching purposes.

Despite the known “no” votes and more than 150 proxy waivers filed for House Members to vote absentee, the Democrats have the numbers necessary to secure passage of the omnibus, and such action is expected to be Congress’ final act of the 117th Session. Few changes from the Senate version of the omnibus are anticipated.

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