Congress OKs $1.3T Budget 03/23 06:17
Congress gave final approval Friday to a giant $1.3 trillion spending bill
that ends the budget battles for now, but only after late scuffles and
conservatives objected to big outlays on Democratic priorities at a time when
Republicans control the House, Senate and White House.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Congress gave final approval Friday to a giant $1.3
trillion spending bill that ends the budget battles for now, but only after
late scuffles and conservatives objected to big outlays on Democratic
priorities at a time when Republicans control the House, Senate and White House.
Senate passage shortly after midnight averted a third federal shutdown this
year, an outcome both parties wanted to avoid. But in crafting a sweeping deal
that busts budget caps, they've stirred conservative opposition and set the
contours for the next funding fight ahead of the midterm elections.
The House easily approved the measure Thursday, 256-167, a bipartisan tally
that underscored the popularity of the compromise, which funds the government
through September. It beefs up military and domestic programs, delivering
federal funds to every corner of the country.
But action stalled in the Senate, as conservatives ran the clock in protest.
Then, an unusual glitch arose when Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho, wanted to remove
a provision to rename a forest in his home state after the late Cecil Andrus, a
four-term Democratic governor.
At one point, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., stepped forward to declare the
entire late-night scene "ridiculous. It's juvenile."
In the end, Risch lost. But the fight contributed to late-night delays
before passage of the massive spending package,
Once the opponents relented, the Senate began voting, clearing the package
by a 65-32 vote a full day before Friday's midnight deadline to fund the
"Shame, shame. A pox on both Houses - and parties," tweeted Sen. Rand Paul,
R-Ky., who spent the afternoon tweeting details found in the 2,200-page bill
that was released the night before. "No one has read it. Congress is broken."
Paul said later he knew he could only delay, but not stop, the outcome and
had made his point.
The omnibus spending bill was supposed to be an antidote to the stopgap
measures Congress has been forced to pass --- five in this fiscal year alone
--- to keep government temporarily running amid partisan fiscal disputes.
Leaders delivered on President Donald Trump's top priorities of boosting
Pentagon coffers and starting work on his promised border wall, while
compromising with Democrats on funds for road building, child care development,
fighting the opioid crisis and more.
But the result has been unimaginable to many Republicans after campaigning
on spending restraints and balanced budgets. Along with the recent GOP tax cuts
law, the bill that stood a foot tall at some lawmakers' desks ushers in the
return of $1 trillion deficits.
Trump only reluctantly backed the bill he would have to sign, according to
Republican lawmakers and aides, who acknowledged the deal involved necessary
trade-offs for the Democratic votes that were needed for passage despite their
majority lock on Congress.
"Obviously he doesn't like this process --- it's dangerous to put it up to
the 11th hour like this," said Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., who opposed the bill
and speaks regularly to Trump. "The president, and our leadership, and the
leadership in the House got together and said, Look, we don't like what the
Democrats are doing, we got to fund the government."
White House legislative director Marc Short framed it as a compromise. "I
can't sit here and tell you and your viewers that we love everything in the
bill," he said on Fox. "But we think that we got many of our priorities funded."
Trying to smooth over differences, Republican leaders focused on military
increases that were once core to the party's brand as guardians of national
"Vote yes for our military. Vote yes for the safety and the security of this
country," said House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., ahead of voting.
But even that remained a hard sell. In all, 90 House Republicans, including
many from the conservative House Freedom Caucus, voted against the bill, as did
two dozen Republicans in the Senate.
It was a sign of the entrenched GOP divisions that have made the
leadership's job controlling the majority difficult. They will likely repeat in
the next budget battle in the fall.
Democrats faced their own divisions, particularly after failing to resolve
the stalemate over shielding young Dreamer immigrants from deportation as
Trump's decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program has
left it for the courts to decide.
Instead, Trump won $1.6 billion to begin building and replacing segments of
the wall along the border with Mexico. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus
opposed the bill.
Also missing from the package was a renewal of federal insurance subsidies
to curb premium costs on the Affordable Care Act exchanges. Trump ended some of
those payments as part of his effort to scuttle President Barack Obama's health
care law, but Republicans have joined Democrats in trying to revive them.
Bipartisan efforts to restore the subsidies, and provide additional help for
insurance carriers, foundered over disagreements on how tight abortion
restrictions should be on using the money for private insurance plans. Senate
Republicans made a last-ditch effort to tuck the insurance provisions into the
bill, but Democrats refused to yield on abortion restrictions.
Still, Democrats were beyond pleased with the outcome. Minority Leader Nancy
Pelosi, D-Calif., chronicled the party's many gains, and noted they could just
have easily withheld votes Republicans needed to avert another shutdown.
"We chose to use our leverage to help this bill pass," Pelosi said.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said as the minority party in
Congress, "We feel good." He added, "We produced a darn good bill."