President Trump signed a two-year budget deal this morning, along with a stopgap spending bill to end a five-hour government shutdown.

The Senate cleared the legislation late last night on a vote of 71 to 28 with wide bipartisan support.  However, the Senate action was too late to avoid the brief government shutdown, the second in the last three weeks.  Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) delayed the Senate vote past midnight as he was opposed to an estimated $320 billion addition to the federal budget deficit.

The measure passed in the House by a vote of 240 to 186 overcoming opposition from both conservative Republicans opposed to boosting federal spending and Democrats concerned its passage would diminish their leverage in the coming debate over immigration issues.  The House vote was  just after 5:30 a.m., approximately 4 hours after the Senate cleared the legislation.

The two-year budget deal will substantially increase spending and suspend the debt ceiling until March 2018, ensuring Congress will not have to deal with the legislative headache until after the midterm elections. The passage of the two-year budget deal ends the need for repeated short-term agreements that led to potential government shutdowns.

The bill provides billions of dollars on defense and  domestic priorities, speeds disaster aid to hurricane-hit regions, and lifts the federal borrowing limit for a year.

While the legislation sets out broad budget numbers for the next two fiscal years, lawmakers will face another deadline on March 23, 2018, providing congressional appropriators time to write a detailed bill to determine funding of government agencies.

Earlier this week, the  budget deal appeared primed for easy passage as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) unveiled it jointly on the Senate floor with bipartisan support and praise.  However, the bill appeared to unravel as House conservatives opposed the excessive deficit spending, while House liberals were irritated that the bill failed to protect the “dreamers,” undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), which has been rescinded by President Trump.  Minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was apparently incensed that the plight of the dreamers, who face the threat of deportation, was not addressed in the bill.

Under the bill, existing spending would be raised by a combined $296 billion through 2019.  The bill increases defense spending by $80 billion in fiscal year 2018 and by $85 billion in fiscal year 2019, while raising nondefense spending by $63 billion in 2018 and $68 billion in 2019.

Pro-defense Republicans heralded the defense increases as a major victory.  “This budget agreement is indispensable for our national security,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX) said in a joint statement.  McCain and Thornberry argued it would “provide our men and women in uniform with the training, capabilities, and support they need to keep America safe.” But other GOP lawmakers raised concerns about the impact on the deficit.

Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) said the deal would deliver more military funding than President Trump requested in his 2018 budget proposal.   “Military spending and defense spending is far above the president’s request,” he said. “I’m all for supporting our military, and I want to make sure they’re funded properly. It’s very difficult to have that big an increase in one year and then be able to use it wisely.”

The legislation also provides $90 billion in disaster relief for communities hit by hurricanes and wildfires, more than double the Trump administration’s request.  Tax provisions would add another $17 billion to the cost of the bill.

The bill also includes $23.5 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster relief fund for recovery, repairs and future mitigation, $28 billion for community development block grants and $2 billion to help Puerto Rico rebuild its electric grid.  Also included is a two-year reauthorization for community health centers, with $7 billion in total funding, and $6 billion to fight opioid addiction.

Other funding priorities are $4 billion to rebuild veterans’ hospitals and clinics, $2 billion for research at the National Institutes of Health, and $20 billion for infrastructure programs.

The bill also extends funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) another four years on top of the six-year extension that Congress approved last month.

The spending is partially offset through an increase in customs and immigration fees, as well as sales from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and other accounting maneuverers.  According to an analysis by the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, the package is set to add $320 billion to the budget deficit over the coming decade.

 

Comments are closed.