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21 Dec, 2022 19:47

US lawmaker slams ‘egregious’ $1.7 trillion spending bill

The mammoth package funds a ‘Ukrainian Independence Park’ and expressly forbids border officers from securing the border
US lawmaker slams ‘egregious’ $1.7 trillion spending bill

Within the 4,155 pages of the US Congress’ latest spending bill are funding boosts for almost every government department, a $47 billion windfall for Ukraine, $70 million to salmon, a ‘Michelle Obama Trail’, and pandemic “surveillance.” North Carolina Republican Dan Bishop condemned the bill’s “egregious” provisions.

Unveiled by Senate leaders late on Monday night, the $1.7 trillion package would fund the federal government through September 2023. With a vote due on Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have called for bipartisan unity in passing it, with both citing the provision of more economic and military aid to Ukraine as a vital priority.

In the House of Representatives, however, Republicans have threatened to obstruct the policy priorities of any Republican senator who backs the legislation, once the GOP retakes control of the lower chamber in January. 

The mammoth proposal increases funding for 19 government departments, according to analysis from the American Action Forum. The Pentagon is set to be the biggest beneficiary of congressional largesse, receiving a $69 billion funding boost to bring its 2023 budget to a record $797 billion.

Poring through the bill, Rep. Dan Bishop noticed some particularly bizarre provisions. 

While US Customs and Border Protection will be allowed to acquire drones and other new “technology and capabilities,” it cannot use these tools “to acquire, maintain, or extend border security.”

However, the bill allocates $410 million toward securing the borders of Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia and Oman. Other foreign spending includes funding for an online-only ‘University of Afghanistan,’ $23 million for “democracy programs” in Bangladesh, and an unspecified bounty for “gender programs in Pakistan.”

Back in the US, the bill sets aside more than half a billion dollars for a subdivision of the National Institutes of Health focused on “structural racism,” $335 million to prepare vaccines and “surveillance tools” for a future “influenza pandemic,” and more than $575 million to promote family planning in areas where “biodiversity” is threatened by population growth.

A share of the $2.6 billion in funding for US Attorneys will be set aside specifically to prosecute the Trump supporters who took part in the January 6, 2021 protest on Capitol Hill, while $7.5 million will be allocated to “developing a better understanding of the domestic radicalization problem,” which President Joe Biden has already equated with support for Donald Trump.

Additionally, Washington DC will get a ‘Ukrainian Independence Park’ and monuments to journalists, Georgia will get a $3.6 million ‘Michelle Obama Trail,’ and outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will get a federal building in San Francisco named in her honor.

The US salmon population is also set to benefit from the bill, with $65 million allocated to restore Pacific salmon populations and $5 million to study the impact of construction on the fish. The draft also calls for the establishment of an ‘Alaska Salmon Research Task Force.’