House passes spending deal to avoid shutdown

The House on Wednesday approved a bipartisan spending deal to keep the federal government funded through September and avoid a shutdown at the end of this week.                 

The $1.1 trillion bill passed with support from both parties in a 309-118 vote. Fifteen Democrats and 103 Republicans voted against it.

It now heads to the Senate, which will have to approve it by Friday, when current funding expires. 

{mosads}Republicans had to make significant concessions to Democrats to get a deal done, despite controlling both chambers of Congress and the White House. The GOP’s hand was forced because of Democrats’ ability to filibuster in the Senate and the expected conservative defections in the House.

House Democrats have repeatedly been needed to help pass spending bills since Republicans took over the majority in 2011.

Democrats claimed victory over what the spending bill lacked: funding for the U.S.-Mexico border wall promised by President Trump, restrictions on federal grants for so-called “sanctuary cities” that shield immigrants from deportation and steep cuts to domestic programs proposed by the White House.

“The omnibus reflects significant progress defeating some dangerous riders,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). 

The legislation also includes an extension of health benefits for retired coal miners and $1.1 billion in disaster assistance. Funding for Planned Parenthood remains untouched.

Republicans, unable to otherwise advance many conservative policy priorities in the bill, touted the $15 billion increase for defense spending. That’s approximately half of the $30 billion in supplemental military spending requested by the Trump administration earlier this year.

It’s still a break from the Obama era, when Democrats insisted that any hike in defense spending had to be matched by an increase in non-defense programs.

“We’ve got a big defense increase. It’s a really good down payment,” Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Wednesday, ahead of the vote. 

But conservatives expressed disappointment with the compromise.

“I don’t see it as a win for conservatives. While there are some good things in it that I think conservatives want, the hallmark things that most of us ran on are conspicuously absent,” said Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.

While there’s no money for the border wall, the bill does allocate $1.5 billion for border security efforts such as improving existing infrastructure and technology, as well as hiring new Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers. 

Democrats had also pushed to include cost-sharing reduction payments to health insurers that help offset costs for low-income consumers. House Republicans had sued the Obama administration on the grounds that the payments were unconstitutional because Congress had not appropriated them.

President Trump had threatened to stop issuing the payments as a way of forcing Democrats to negotiate on ObamaCare. But his administration assured lawmakers the payments would continue for now, though it’s hardly the certainty Democrats and insurers had sought.

The National Institutes of Health will get a significant boost despite Trump proposing in his budget to cut its funding by $1.2 billion. Lawmakers instead agreed to provide the NIH with a $2 billion increase that will be allocated toward research for conditions such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

The next spending fight will come in the fall when Congress has to finalize appropriations for the 2018 fiscal year. 

President Trump expressed frustration on Tuesday that Senate Democrats used the filibuster power to their advantage in the spending negotiations. He called for changing Senate rules to eliminate the legislative filibuster and suggested the use of a “good shutdown” to change Washington.

“The reason for the plan negotiated between the Republicans and Democrats is that we need 60 votes in the Senate which are not there! We either elect more Republican Senators in 2018 or change the rules now to 51%,” Trump tweeted.  

“Our country needs a good ‘shutdown’ in September to fix mess!”

Most Republicans in Congress, however, remember the 2013 shutdown, which they were mostly blamed for, and are eager to avoid another one while they are in control of government. 

“Our voters, the people who elected Republican majorities in both Houses and elected this president, did not vote for us in order to shut down the government. They voted for us to govern, as hard as it is,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the chamber’s second-ranking Republican, said from the Senate floor on Tuesday.

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