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ongress reaches spending deal, lowering odds of government shutdown

Sunday - 30/04/2017 11:12
The bipartisan deal also increased military spending by $12.5 billion
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell points to a reporters after a policy luncheon on Capitol Hill. (Photo: Alex Brandon/AP)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell points to a reporters after a policy luncheon on Capitol Hill. (Photo: Alex Brandon/AP)

WASHINGTON — Congress has reached an agreement to fund the federal government through September in a bipartisan deal that rejected President Trump’s demand for a border wall and non-defense domestic spending cuts.

The $1 trillion-plus spending bill will allocate $1.5 billion for additional technology and infrastructure on the border, but includes language that explicitly states those funds cannot go to the construction of a wall. Lawmakers also rejected the president’s demand for $18 billion in non-defense spending cuts, increasing funds for the National Institutes for Health (NIH) by $2 billion for cancer research. Democrats held off the White House’s demand to cut the Environmental Protection Agency by a third as well, with that agency getting just a 1 percent trim off its budget.

The bipartisan deal also increased military spending by $12.5 billion — less than half the $30 billion the president asked for — with an extra $2.5 billion contingent upon the Trump administration showing Congress a plan to defeat ISIS.

The bill doesn’t touch funding for so-called sanctuary cities and Planned Parenthood — two hot-button issues the Democrats had called “poison pills.” But Democrats were stymied in their effort to get Congress to take over funding key Obamacare subsidies. The final deal does not include them, though the Trump administration told Democrats they would continue to fund that part of Obamacare for now.

Democrats entered the negotiations with a lot of leverage, since Republicans, eager to prove their governing chops, did not want to be blamed for a government shutdown while they controlled both houses of Congress and the White House. House Republicans have also been eager to move on from spending negotiations to a second attempt at repealing and replacing Obamacare. A vote on the amended health care bill could happen this week.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Democrats had managed to exclude “poison pill riders” in the agreement. “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,” Schumer said in a statement Sunday night. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., also released a celebratory statement.

Republicans also declared victory. “American will be stronger and safer because of this government funding bill,” Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., said in a statement. “It acts on President Trump’s commitment to rebuild our military for the 21st century and bolster our nation’s border security to protect our homeland.” Ryan added that the spending bill increased military spending without including an equal increase in domestic spending, “as Democrats had insisted upon for years.”

The government is funded through Friday at midnight, giving lawmakers five days to push the spending bills through both houses.

While Republicans and Democrats were able to put their differences aside and reach a deal on spending, the budget fight for 2018 will likely be far fiercer. The president has vowed to get funding for his wall then, and to ask for deep cuts in non-defense spending.

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 Key: Congress

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