Last-minute changes the Senate made to the $1.7 trillion omnibus


Senators on Thursday added a list of amendments to a sweeping 4,155-page government funding bill that now heads to the House.

During the hours-long voting session, senators voted on a series of 15 amendments, ranging from measures that sought to extend a Trump-era immigration policy to legislation aimed at expanding protections for breastfeeding workers.

The $1.7 trillion funding package passed the Senate in a 68-29 vote and now heads to the House, where some top Democrats are hopeful for a swift passage. 

Below are some of the changes senators voted to adopt as part of the process:

The Pump Act

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) speaks during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the fiscal 2023 budget at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on April 26, 2022.

The Senate approved adding the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers (PUMP) Act, which seeks to strengthen breastfeeding protections for workers, in a 92-5 vote.

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), who co-sponsored the bill, called its passage “a win that’s been years in the making” in a tweet published moments later.

“Everyone should have the space and privacy to pump at work, and no one should be forced by their employer to stop nursing,” he said.

Compensation for victims of terrorism

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J) speaks during a news conference following the Democrats’ policy luncheon meeting on Capitol Hill on Sept. 20, 2022, in Washington.

Added into the package is a bill sponsored by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) that will allow specific groups of victims of terrorism access to a compensation fund for terrorism victims, from which these groups were previously excluded.

They include direct families of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, victims of the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut and the 1996 attack on the Air Force barracks in Khobar, Saudi Arabia. 

The bill, called the Fairness for 9/11 Families Act, had stalled amid opposition from Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) over it initially not including the Beirut victims. The compromise was offered as an amendment to the 2023 funding bill and passed the Senate 93-4.

Using forfeited property to help Ukraine

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) joins a group of Republican senators who are upset that members of the military are required to get the COVID-19 vaccine and are threatening to withhold their votes to advance the annual National Defense Authorization Act unless the vaccine issue goes to a vote, at the Capitol in Washington on Nov. 30, 2022.

Another amendment that made the cut, offered by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), would “authorize the transfer of the proceeds of certain forfeited property to help Ukraine.”

That extends to property that was “possessed by, or was controlled by a person subject to sanctions and designated by the Secretary of the Treasury or the Secretary of State.”

The amendment, which was approved by a voice vote, comes months after Graham — along with Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) — introduced legislation aimed at allowing the assets of Russian oligarchs to be used to support efforts to aid Ukraine amid the ongoing Russian invasion.

Pregnant Fairness Workers Act

The Senate voted 73-24 to adopt an amendment brought by Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) to attach the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act to the omnibus. 

A release from the office of Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who has also been pushing for the legislation, said the bill follows a model similar to the Americans with Disabilities Act and would “require employers to make reasonable accommodations to allow pregnant workers to continue working safely, such as additional bathroom breaks, light duty, or a stool to sit on if a worker stands all day.”

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) lauded the vote in a statement not long after, calling it “one of the most significant improvements to workplace protections in years.”

“The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act makes a simple assertion: if you are pregnant, if you are working during your pregnancy, you should have the right to basic workplace accommodations,” he said.

Payment for Navy Lt. Ridge Alkonis

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) speaks during a news conference on spending, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

An amendment to provide for the continuation of pay and benefits of Navy Lt. Ridge Alkonis also passed. According to Deseret News, his pay was cut while serving a three-year sentence in a prison in Japan after a car accident that killed two citizens.

Alkonis was determined by a judge in Japan to have been sleeping behind the wheel during the accident, but U.S. Navy investigators found that Alkonis suffered from acute mountain sickness and lost consciousness.

The Senate approved the amendment, offered by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), in a voice vote.

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