Congress sends first spending package to Trump in push to avert shutdown

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The House passed a $147 billion “minibus” spending package Thursday and sent it to President Trump for a signature, taking initial steps to avert another possible government shutdown.
The legislation, which makes up approximately 12 percent of overall 2019 spending, was passed by a bipartisan vote of 377-20. The Senate overwhelmingly passed an identical bill Wednesday evening, and the White House has indicated that Trump will sign the measure.
{mosads}The package passed Thursday includes bills for military construction and veterans’ affairs, the legislative branch and energy and water.
The vote followed a deal between the House and Senate to effectively sidestep an Oct. 1 shutdown threat from Trump over border wall funding.
The two chambers decided to pair a short-term continuing resolution (CR) extending all government funding until Dec. 7 with the must-pass package of Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education departments funding measures.
In order to force a shutdown over border wall funding, Trump would have to veto the entire package, including the increased spending of the defense bill.
House GOP leaders on Thursday touted passage of the three spending bills as lawmakers showing more progress in the regular appropriations process than has been seen in over a decade.
“We’ve done our best to repair a broken appropriations process. This is welcome and long overdue,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.). 
Congress has not managed to pass more than one major appropriations bill on time since 2007, and is aiming to pass nine of the 12 annual bills by the time the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.
The two chambers have continued to negotiate a third spending package — comprised of four bills including agriculture, interior, transportation and financial services — but the deadline for completing them would be pushed to December, assuming the second package with the CR passes. 
The three-bill package that passed the House on Thursday included $98 billion for military construction and veterans affairs — a $5.3 billion increase from the previous year. 
The bill also funds a backlog of maintenance costs for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals and clinics, as well as mental health care and suicide prevention, but did not specifically fund the VA Choice medical program, which will move from the automatic part of the budget to the discretionary side starting in May.
The $44.6 billion energy and water bill, a $1.4 billion increase over last year, includes funding for modernizing nuclear weapons complexes, revitalizing waterways and researching renewable energy. The measure did not fund a project to store nuclear waste in Nevada’s Yucca Mountains, a controversial rider that had been included in the House version of the bill.
In a first, the $4.8 billion legislative branch bill provides funds to pay Capitol Hill interns and also reinstates a requirement for the House and Senate to conduct studies on gender and racial pay equity among their staffs.
“I am delighted that we have secured $8.8 million in a new, dedicated funding stream for Member’s offices to pay interns. This new funding will help a more diverse range of young people follow their dreams and begin a career in public service,” said Rep. Nita Lowey (N.Y.), the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee.
The White House indicated that the legislation had President Trump’s support.
“President Trump looks forward to signing this legislation and continuing to work with Congress to enact Fiscal Year 2019 funding for the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, and other agencies, while continuing to show fiscal restraint,” the White House said in a press statement Wednesday evening.
Tags Appropriations Donald Trump Government shutdown Nita Lowey Rodney Frelinghuysen

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