Congressional negotiators reach $1-trillion deal to fund government but provide little for Trump’s priorities
The final deal failed to include the big cuts to domestic non-defense accounts that Trump was seeking. (Sign up for our free video newsletter here http://bit.ly/2n6VKPR)
Congressional negotiators reached a bipartisan deal late Sunday to fund the federal government through September, easing the threat of a shutdown but denying President Trump several key priorities — including money for his promised border wall with Mexico.
The estimated $1-trillion omnibus package would provide $12.5 billion in increased military funding, about half the amount Trump requested from Congress. Another $2.5 billion for defense is available if the administration submits a counter-terrorism strategy to fight Islamic State.
But the final deal failed to include the big cuts to domestic non-defense accounts that Trump was seeking, and thus emerged as something of an embarrassment to the White House in his first budget negotiation with Congress.
It actually would increase federal spending on medical research, green energy programs and other areas that the White House had pegged for sharp reductions. Under it, the National Institutes of Health would see an increase of 6%, or $2 billion.
Though the package does include $1.5 billion for border security, the money is expected to pay for technology and infrastructure repairs along the Southwest border, not more detention facilities or deportation officers.
The legislation is also free of more than 160 policy riders intended to restrict abortion access, loosen financial regulations or serve other Republican priorities that could have doomed Democratic support. It notably would not cut money for Planned Parenthood, a White House target.
Negotiators worked through the weekend to finish the deal, which was described by congressional aides. Lawmakers are expected to vote early this week, before stopgap funding expires Friday.
Republicans were notably quiet as details became known Sunday, a day after Trump celebrated his first 100 days in office, while Democrats boasted that the deal shows the power they can leverage even as the Republican Party controls both houses of Congress and the White House.
“Early on in this debate, Democrats clearly laid out our principles,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.).
“This agreement is a good agreement for the American people, and takes the threat of a government shutdown off the table,” he added. “The bill ensures taxpayer dollars aren’t used to fund an ineffective border wall, excludes poison pill riders, and increases investments in programs that the middle-class relies on, like medical research, education and infrastructure.”
The top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), noted that $68 million was added “to reimburse law enforcement agencies for costs incurred helping to protect President Trump and the First Family,” including his adult children.
Trump engineered the fiscal standoff shortly after he was elected, insisting late last year that Congress should fund the government for only a few months so he could put his stamp on federal spending as the new president.
Most notably, he wanted money to start construction of the wall along the Southwest border that became his signature campaign issue, even though at the time he promised Mexico would pay for it.
The White House plan quickly ran into opposition from Democrats and some Republicans over several priorities.
Congressional Republicans are routinely forced to rely on Democratic support to pass spending bills because their own party typically cannot agree on federal funding levels. The most conservative Republicans often dissent.
Most Democrats have been willing to increase funding for the military, especially to fight terrorism, but not at the level Trump wanted — and not at the expense of non-defense domestic programs.
As negotiations dragged on, Trump only narrowly averted a government shutdown last week when existing funds ran out as he marked his first 100 days in office. Congress quickly approved a one-week temporary funding bill on Friday to allow talks to finish.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) called the final deal Sunday a “sharp contrast” to the administration’s wish list, noting the bill “does not fund President Trump’s immoral and unwise border wall or create a cruel new deportation force.”
The final deal includes several items that were being negotiated late last week, including permanent federal relief to prop up a coal miners pension fund for retiree healthcare.
The bill also includes $295 million to help assist Puerto Rico’s struggling Medicaid program and $2 billion in disaster funding for several states, including California, West Virginia, Louisiana and North Carolina. There is $407 million for fighting wildfires in the West.
Among the new domestic spending is $100 million to stem the opioid drug crisis, as well as money for infrastructure investments in Amtrak, particularly along its East Coast rail service.
Both sides would like to put the threat of government shutdowns aside, especially as Republicans try to mark some legislative accomplishments under Trump after failing — twice — to garner enough votes in the House to bring a proposed replacement bill for Obamacare to the floor for a vote.
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) can afford to lose only about two dozen votes from his ranks, but the final budget package is expected to draw wide support from Democrats.
Earlier Sunday, Trump complained that his first 100 days in office taught him that Congress moves slowly, with “arcane” rules.
“In many cases you’re forced to make deals that are not the deal you’d make,” Trump said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “You’d make a much different kind of deal.”
Republicans have also been trying to revive their efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Democrats, who oppose undoing Obamacare, warned them last week not to link the two efforts.
That dynamic will continue during the week ahead as Republicans want to fund the government but also tackle their other priorities, including the Obamacare repeal.
If approved, the omnibus deal would fund the government through the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30.
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