House approves $383 billion spending package

House Democrats on Tuesday passed a $383 billion spending package, finishing work on three-quarters of the annual appropriations bills on its docket ahead of the July Fourth recess.

The package of five funding bills passed in a vote of 227-194, largely along party lines. It includes funds for commerce and justice; agriculture, interior and environment; military construction and veterans affairs; and transportation, housing and urban development.

The legislation’s passage means Democrats have successfully completed work on nine of the 12 annual appropriations bills in their chamber. They are set to pass a 10th bill, covering financial services and general government, this week.{mosads}

The other two, however, will likely come in July. The legislative branch funding bill, usually among the least controversial of the pack, was stripped out of an earlier “minibus” spending package because of disagreements over whether Congress should increase its own pay. 

The final bill, on homeland security, deals with some of the most toxic issues between Republicans and Democrats: immigration and President Trump’s proposed border wall. That bill was at the center of the historic 35-day shutdown earlier this year.

While the House will just miss its goal of moving all 12 bills in June, it remains months ahead of the Senate, which has yet to unveil a single spending bill. 

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said he wants to wait until the Democratic-led House, GOP-led Senate and White House strike a deal to raise spending caps for 2020, but talks on the issue have faltered. Shelby said he may move ahead with his own estimated spending figures come July.

Republicans are seeking to continue dramatically increasing defense spending, while Democrats in the House are seeking to put more resources toward the domestic side of the ledger.

Both plans would add significantly to the deficit, a concern the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) highlighted in its long-term budget projection released Tuesday morning.

According to the CBO, debt is on track to increase from 78 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) to an “unsustainable” level of 144 percent of GDP over 30 years, even if the spending caps aren’t lifted and scheduled tax hikes go into effect.

If Congress does increase spending and stop the tax increases, the debt would rise to 219 percent of GDP instead, the nonpartisan report found.

For Democrats, however, the five-bill package passed Tuesday was an opportunity to highlight their opposition to Trump’s agenda, rejecting his proposed budget cuts and blocking many of his policies.

“This legislation rejects the administration’s proposals to gut critical programs for combating climate change, promoting economic development, and implementing justice reform efforts,” said Rep. José Serrano (D-N.Y.), who chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee in charge of the commerce, justice and science bill.

“These programs will have a tremendous positive impact in local communities all across the nation, in urban as well as rural areas,” he added.

The bill increased funding for the Environmental Protection Agency, which Trump proposed cutting by 31.2 percent, and increased funding for the Interior Department, which Trump wanted to cut by nearly 11 percent.

It also funded a slew of agencies Trump wanted to scale back or eliminate, such as the National Science foundation, the government’s largest nonmedical research and development investor; the National Endowment for the Arts; the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which provides weather and climate research. 

Democratic priorities such as gun control, climate change and immigration were also central to the legislation, which included funds for gun violence research and provisions blocking Trump from repurposing military construction funds to pay for his proposed border wall. 

It included a provision to back pay low-wage contractors who were affected by this year’s prolonged shutdown, who, unlike federal employees, did not receive compensation for work missed because of the shutdown.

The only Democrat to vote against the package was Rep. Ben McAdams (Utah), a fiscal hawk concerned over increased spending levels. No Republicans voted in favor.

House Republicans said Democrats should have sought bipartisan agreements, noting that the bills in their current form would never get a presidential signature. That, they said, would make it hard to pass the bills before the new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1.

“House Democrats have wasted opportunity after opportunity to pass meaningful, bipartisan appropriations bills,” said Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), the leading Republican on the House Appropriations Committee.

“Instead, they have written bills that irresponsibly increase spending and include partisan riders that Republicans simply cannot support,” she added.

Updated: 3:40 p.m.

Tags Donald Trump Government shutdown Kay Granger Richard Shelby

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