US lawmakers moved to raise the age at which tobacco products can be sold from 18 to 21 as the Senate voted Thursday to advance a comprehensive $1.4 trillion federal spending package on a broad range of programmes following a last-minute bipartisan agreement agreed on ahead of the Christmas recess.
The bill passed a Senate vote 71-23, with the legislation now set to move on to President Trump's desk for signature. Trump is widely expected to sign the bill into law, as it also allocates funding for the president's US-Mexico border wall, as well as a very broad range of other initiatives, and will allow Washington to avert another costly government shutdown like the one which rocked the US earlier this year.
The comprehensive bill appropriates federal money for a range of domestic programmes, as well as US foreign aid initiatives. It's one of two major spending bills before Congress, with the other being a national security bill including $738 billion in defense spending for the 2020 fiscal year. The domestic spending portion includes $632 billion in spending.
Along with the hike in the age at which tobacco can be sold, lobbied for by both Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a rare show of bipartisan unity, the spending package includes assistance to retired coal miners, the repeal of an Obama-era tax on costly health care plans, and funding for US federal agencies, including the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Labour and the Department of Energy, and the Export-Import Bank. The legislation also includes increases in federal spending to help fight the opioids crisis, child care grants for states, medical research, and other initiatives, including a boost to US Census budget.
The spending increase is expected to add hundreds of billions of dollars to the US's deficit over the next decade. US federal debt passed the $23 trillion mark earlier this year, equivalent to over $70,000 for every man, woman and child in the US, or $187,300 per taxpayer.