Spending Bill Passes House as Senators Mull Government Shutdown
(Bloomberg) -- The House passed a $1.3 trillion spending bill that would avert a government shutdown and increase funding for the military, border security and other domestic programs, though a GOP senator who opposes the measure hasn’t said whether he’ll force a delay past a Friday funding deadline and cause a closure.
In 256-167 vote on Thursday, the House sent the compromise measure to the Senate, which could vote by the end of the day or Friday. White House budget director Mick Mulvaney told reporters that President Donald Trump will sign the bill, saying it funds his priorities.
The spending bill for this fiscal year has rankled conservative lawmakers who object to increased funds and having to vote without more time to review the 2,232-page text that was made public Wednesday night. Any senator could force a government shutdown by refusing to grant the unanimous consent needed for quick action, and GOP Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky left open the possibility he may do so.
Senator John Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican who opposes the bill and also raised the prospect of forcing a shutdown, said he decided not to do so.
“It sucks,” Kennedy said of the spending measure. “This is a Great-Dane-sized whiz down the leg of every taxpayer in this country. No thought whatsoever to adding over a trillion dollars in debt.”
John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Senate Republican, said he anticipates there ultimately will be no objections to a vote Thursday or Friday.
“People realize that the handwriting is on the wall,” Cornyn said. “This has been a long time coming” ever since a February agreement to raise limits on spending, he said.
The measure would increase spending on the military by $80 billion and on domestic programs by $63 billion over previous budget limits set out in the bipartisan budget agreement that ended a February shutdown.
"Vote yes for the safety and security of this country," House Speaker Paul Ryan urged his colleagues on the floor, adding that the bill provides the biggest boost in military spending in 15 years.
Earlier, Ryan of Wisconsin was barely able to persuade House GOP members to support a procedural vote setting up debate on the bill. Asked about the rushed process to consider the legislation, Ryan told reporters, "By and large we’ve done a phenomenal job" in following House rules.
The proposal includes $1.6 billion for border security, including money for fencing and levees, though that’s only a fraction of the $25 billion that Trump wanted to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
The compromise spending proposal, unveiled after repeated delays and all-night bargaining sessions, has a provision creating incentives to bolster reporting by federal agencies to the database for gun-buyer background checks, as well as $21 billion for infrastructure projects and an additional $4 billion to combat opioid addiction.
New York’s Nita Lowey, the top spending panel Democrat, said on the House floor that the measure “repudiates the abysmal Trump budget," which sought $54 billion in cuts to domestic spending.
Ryan delivered a summary of the spending legislation to Trump at the White House Wednesday afternoon. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky joined the meeting, which included Vice President Mike Pence, by telephone.
Hudson River Tunnel
One of the biggest obstacles to reaching the agreement was the status of funding for a Hudson River tunnel between New York and New Jersey. Advocates, mainly Democrats and Republicans representing the two states, argued it is one of the most important infrastructure projects in the U.S. But Trump has insisted on removing money for the project, known as Gateway, from the spending plan.
The spending agreement omits language steering money to the Gateway project, although the project could access about half the funds supporters are seeking -- as much as $541 million -- through other accounts, one congressional aide said. Additional funding would be available to the project through Amtrak and grants that don’t require approval from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the aide said.
The legislation includes several provisions in response to mass shootings. It includes incentives for reporting to a database for gun-buyer background checks and permits the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research the causes of gun violence, after more than 20 years of restrictions that prevented the agency from doing so.
Also included is $75 million this year to train teachers and school officials to respond to attacks, pay for metal detectors and other equipment, and create anonymous systems for reporting possible threats to schools. Between 2019 and 2028, $100 million a year would be provided.
The bill would contain funding to combat Russian interference in this year’s elections, and it would provide more than $600 million to build a new rural broadband network.
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