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Senate to vote on two-year budget Thursday

Senate to vote on two-year budget Thursday
© Greg Nash

The Senate is expected to vote Thursday on a two-year budget deal that would substantially increase spending and suspend the debt ceiling for a year.

It is intended to avert a second government shutdown this year and gives lawmakers who wanted more money for the military a big win.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellManchin, Biden huddle amid talk of breaking up T package Romney: Removing Cheney from House leadership will cost GOP election votes The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden reverses Trump limits on transgender protections MORE (R-Ky.) and Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerHouse conservatives take aim at Schumer-led bipartisan China bill There will be no new immigration law under Biden, unless he changes course This week: Congressional leaders to meet with Biden amid GOP reckoning MORE (N.Y.) hailed it as a breakthrough after months of partisan fighting that stalled spending legislation and caused a three-day shutdown last month.

“This bill is the product of extensive negotiations among congressional leaders and the White House. No one would suggest it is perfect. But we worked hard to find common ground and stay focused on serving the American people,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.

Schumer said it marked the first sign of bipartisanship in months. 

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“After months of fiscal brinksmanship, this budget deal is the first real sprout of bipartisanship,” he said.

The accord increases defense spending by $80 billion in fiscal year 2018 and by $85 billion in fiscal year 2019, while raising nondefense spending by $63 billion and $68 billion.

It suspends the debt ceiling until March of 2019, ensuring Congress won’t have to deal with the legislative headache again until after this year’s midterm elections.

The Senate is expected to pass the deal on Thursday and send it to the House for final approval, hours before government funding is due to expire at midnight.

The legislation has strong support in the Senate but faces a rockier path in the House, where conservatives don’t like the big spending increases and Democrats want a promise from Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanBiden's relationship with top House Republican is frosty The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Facebook upholds Trump ban; GOP leaders back Stefanik to replace Cheney Budowsky: Liz Cheney vs. conservatives in name only MORE (R-Wis.) to debate immigration legislation soon.

House Democratic Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden reverses Trump limits on transgender protections The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Infrastructure, Cheney ouster on deck as Congress returns This week: Congressional leaders to meet with Biden amid GOP reckoning MORE (Calif.) held the House floor throughout Wednesday to speak out on the need to protect hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children.

The battle over the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which Trump is phasing out, led to a three-day shutdown in January. The Senate bill includes no language on the issue, despite demands from Democrats.

The Senate is set to debate a bill to protect so-called Dreamers from deportation in exchange for stronger border security, but there’s no guarantee the House will act if it passes the upper chamber.

Pelosi vowed to oppose the spending measure unless Ryan promises to take up immigration legislation, as McConnell promised to do next week.

“Without a commitment from Speaker Ryan, comparable to the commitment from Leader McConnell, this package does not have my support,” Pelosi said in a statement at the start of her marathon floor speech.

House Republicans will likely need Democratic votes to pass the spending deal, as conservative Republicans are voicing objections to the big increases in spending and the lack of reforms attached to the debt-ceiling increase.

Ryan praised the package Wednesday for “breaking the logjam on a number of priorities for the American people” and, in an attempt to mollify his right wing, promised future fiscal reforms.

“More budget reforms are needed, which is why we are laying the groundwork for a better process,” he said.

The deal establishes two committees to work on budget and spending reform, along with pension reform.

In another bid to win over conservatives, it will make some structural reforms to Medicare and repeal ObamaCare’s Independent Payment Advisory Board, a cost-control program that never got off the ground because critics argued it would take medical decisions away from doctors.

Pro-defense Republicans heralded the defense increases as a major victory.

“This budget agreement is indispensable for our national security,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCainJohn Sidney McCainEx-McSally aide pleads guilty to stealing over 0K in campaign funds DOJ: Arizona recount could violate civil rights laws Cheney fight stokes cries of GOP double standard for women MORE (R-Ariz.) and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryUnnamed law enforcement banned under the new NDAA Lobbying world Senate poised to override Trump's defense bill veto MORE (R-Texas) said in a joint statement.

They argued it would “provide our men and women in uniform with the training, capabilities, and support they need to keep America safe.”

But other GOP lawmakers raised concerns about the impact on the deficit.

Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerThe unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  The Republicans' deep dive into nativism Fox News inks contributor deal with former Democratic House member MORE (R-Tenn.), an outspoken budget hawk, warned that it might be more money than the Pentagon can digest in one year.

“Military spending and defense spending is far above the president’s request,” he said. “I’m all for supporting our military, and I want to make sure they’re funded properly. It’s very difficult to have that big an increase in one year and then be able to use it wisely.”

Federal deficit concerns weighed on Wall Street as well, where interest rates on treasuries have climbed in recent days, putting the stock markets in turmoil. Bond prices dipped and yields rose after McConnell announced the deal. 

The legislation would also provide $90 billion in disaster relief for communities hit by hurricanes and wildfires, more than double the Trump administration’s request.

It includes $23.5 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster relief fund for recovery, repairs and future mitigation, $28 billion for community development block grants and $2 billion to help Puerto Rico rebuild its electric grid.

Senate Republican Whip John CornynJohn CornynThere will be no new immigration law under Biden, unless he changes course Tim Scott sparks buzz in crowded field of White House hopefuls Cornyn is most prolific tweeter in Congress so far in 2021 MORE (Texas) called it “an improvement over the House version.”

It also includes a two-year reauthorization for community health centers, with $7 billion in total funding, and $6 billion to fight opioid addiction.

Other funding priorities are $4 billion to rebuild veterans’ hospitals and clinics, $2 billion for research at the National Institutes of Health and $20 billion for infrastructure programs.

In a big win for Democrats, it extends funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) another four years on top of the six-year extension that Congress approved last month.

“American families with children who benefit with CHIP will now be able to rest easy for the next decade,” Schumer said.

He said that seniors and children would also benefit from the deal’s extension of various expiring tax provisions.