Wednesday, 26 September, 2018

Senate passes massive spending bill to avoid government shutdown

Melinda Barton | 09 February, 2018, 02:44

Congress is expected to vote Thursday on a massive bipartisan budget deal to increase funding for government programs by hundreds of billions of dollars while averting another shutdown.

The budget agreement would give both the Pentagon and domestic agencies relief from a budget freeze that lawmakers say threatens military readiness and training as well as domestic priorities such as combating opioid abuse and repairing the troubled health care system for veterans.

The deal also provides nearly $90bn for disaster relief efforts in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, which have been hard-hit by hurricanes in the previous year.

If all, or at least most, Democrats follow Pelosi to vote against the budget deal, and are joined by the 36-member Freedom Caucus, the measure could fail in a floor vote.

Defense hawks and moderates said the deal was an imperfect but decent compromise while conservatives blasted it as an ill-advised budget-buster.

Schumer agreed: "The budget deal doesn't have everything Democrats want; it doesn't have everything the Republicans want, but it has what the American people need", he said in his statement.

Some House Democrats don't like it because it does not include a solution for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration program. "I'm optimistic that very soon we'll be able to reach an agreement", McConnell said of the meeting. At the same time, many liberal Democrats wanted to withhold their support as leverage to win concessions on immigration policy.

The deal also sparked opposition from the House Democratic leader, Representative Nancy Pelosi, who said she can't agree to any budget deal not accompanied by a debate on protecting immigrants brought here illegally as children, known as Dreamers.

Senate leaders, disregarding President Trump's threats to shut down the government, struck a far-reaching agreement on Wednesday that would set spending levels on military and domestic spending for the next two years, breaking the cycle of fiscal crises that have bedeviled the Capitol since last summer.

The deal raises the debt ceiling until March 2019, postponing a potential fiery clash within President Donald Trump's own Republican Party, and essentially clears the decks for Congress to address other thorny issues such as immigration and infrastructure. "However, the longer @NancyPelosi bloviate on the House Floor against the deal - the more I'm inclined to support it". "I think it's the best deal we can get".

On Tuesday, Trump injected uncertainty into the funding debate when he said he would "love" to see a shutdown if Democrats do not back his immigration demands. Now that a caps deal has been made, Senate leaders are expected to strip out the full year of funding for defense, attach the caps deal and hope the House can pass their breakthrough bill.

But Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan has said he believes it will pass.

The Republican summary didn't specify how long the debt limit would be suspended.

If no resolution is reached by midnight Thursday, the government will run out of money.

The 77-year-old vowed to oppose any budget that does not include protections for so-called Dreamers, young immigrants who entered the USA illegally as children.

Ryan said he supports the agreement, adding the proposal includes "enormous strides" for the country's defense system.