House approves first 2019 spending bills
The House on Friday approved its first three 2019 spending bills, packaged together in a “minibus.”
The bills passed on a mostly party-line vote of 235-179.
The three bills, Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, add up to $144.5 billion of the total $1.2 trillion in discretionary spending allowed by budget caps for 2019.
An additional $921 million was set aside in off-budget spending in the Military Construction bill.
“These bills provide funding to rebuild our military infrastructure, support military families, improve nuclear security, support our nation’s energy and water infrastructure, and assure the smooth and safe operations the Legislative Branch,” House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) said.
While the minibus covers items that tend to be less controversial than those dealing with border security, health and labor, Democrats were upset by provisions in the bills they say cut funding from clean energy initiatives and expand gun rights on public land.
“This GOP minibus is the first step in Republicans’ plan to choke off funding increases for critical Democratic priorities for the health, education and economic well-being of America’s working families later in the appropriations process,” Democratic leadership wrote earlier in the week in a Dear Colleague letter urging a no vote.
Conservative groups have also expressed ire over spending levels, which rose $7.8 billion relative to 2018 in the three bills.
“If Congress was hoping to regain some credibility with Americans on spending, they’re not off to a very good start,” Americans for Prosperity Senior Policy Fellow Alison Acosta Winters.
Republicans and Democrats agreed to increased spending caps for 2019 as part of a two-year plan reached in March, which significantly boosted both defense and nondefense spending.
Paired alongside deep revenue cuts from the GOP tax bill, the spending has helped balloon the deficit.
On Thursday, the Congressional Budget Office found that the federal budget deficit for 2018 had reached $530 billion in the first eight months of the fiscal year, some 22 percent higher than the previous year.
In the upper chamber, the Senate Appropriations Committee has already approved the Energy and Water and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs bills and is expected to mark up the Legislative Branch bill next week.
But the Senate has attached a different set of numbers to its bills, numbers that analysts think will more closely outline whatever final product is negotiated between the two chambers due to the Senate’s more stringent voting rules.
The Senate Military Construction and Veterans Affairs bill, for example, included $109 billion in off-budget spending, while the Energy and Water bill spent about $1 billion less than the House version.
Questions remain on President Trump’s stance on the spending bills.
In March, he reluctantly signed the omnibus after threatening a last-minute veto over the spending levels and vowed never to sign such a bill again. It is unclear whether he would sign a minibus spending package.
The current fiscal year ends on September 30, and without new spending bills or a continuing resolution to maintain current funding levels, the government would shut down.
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