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House passes $854B spending bill to avert shutdown

House passes $854B spending bill to avert shutdown
© Greg Nash

The House on Wednesday passed an $854 billion spending bill to avert an October shutdown, funding large swaths of the government while pushing the funding deadline for others until Dec. 7.

The bill passed by 361-61, a week after the Senate passed an identical measure by a vote of 93-7.

The package included two appropriations bills, which fully funded Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS) and Education for fiscal 2019, and make up about two-thirds of the annual appropriations total for the year.

It also included a continuing resolution (CR) extending current funding levels for any unfunded agencies through the first two months of the fiscal year.

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President TrumpDonald John TrumpKey takeaways from the Arizona Senate debate Major Hollywood talent firm considering rejecting Saudi investment money: report Mattis says he thought 'nothing at all' about Trump saying he may leave administration MORE said Wednesday that he would sign the bill, seeming to put to bed months of speculation over whether he would force a shutdown over his proposed border wall.

“We’re going to keep the government open,” Trump told reporters in New York, where he was attending the United Nations General Assembly.

Over the weekend, Trump had called the spending bill “ridiculous” and called on Republicans to “get tough” on border security.

Congressional Republicans were concerned that a partial government shutdown would create further headwinds in an election where Democrats are expected to make significant gains. The president could still shut down any parts of the government that remain unfunded in December by vetoing spending bills or another extension.

Trump’s commitment to signing the bill vindicated congressional leadership’s strategy of bundling the CR with the Defense bill, a top Republican priority, and the Labor-HHS bill, a top Democratic priority.  

The Defense bill amounted to $674 billion (including off-budget funds not counted under the spending cap), including a 2.6 percent military pay raise.

“The Department of Defense is now set to receive its full funding on time for the first time in over 10 years,” noted Rep. Rodney FrelinghuysenRodney Procter FrelinghuysenFlorida politics play into disaster relief debate On The Money: Stocks slide for second day as Trump blames 'loco' Fed | Mulvaney calls for unity at consumer bureau | Pelosi says Dems will go after Trump tax returns GOP chairman: FEMA has enough money for Hurricane Michael MORE (R-N.J.), the House Appropriations Committee chairman.

The Labor-HHS bill included $180 billion in funds, including programs to combat the opioid epidemic, funding increases for the National Institute of Health, increases for Pell Grants, and a variety of community block grants.

“Just as important is what this bill does not include, the unnecessary partisan riders that caused House Democrats to oppose Labor-HHS in the appropriations committee,” said Rep. Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyDems eye ambitious agenda if House flips House passes 4B spending bill to avert shutdown Shelby: Deal close on third minibus spending package MORE (D-N.Y.), alluding to a variety of conservative policies that appeared in the original House version of the bill, including provisions restricting access to abortion and targeting Planned Parenthood.

House conservatives were incensed that policy riders that passed in their chamber were stripped out of the final versions during negotiations with the Senate, which requires 60 votes to pass spending legislation.

“It’s frustrating,” said Rep. Mark WalkerBradley (Mark) Mark WalkerDisasters become big chunk of U.S. deficit GOP lawmaker reports 'threatening' Twitter messages to police US and Canada working furiously to come to NAFTA agreement MORE (R-N.C.), the chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee (RSC), saying that members had called the bill a “junk pile” and vented that the Defense bill was “being held hostage.”

“A lot of the RSC members are probably voting against this,” he said.

Leaders of the conservative House Freedom Caucus hoped to derail the bill through amendments that would strike the Labor-HHS bill from the conference report, include $25 billion in funds for the border wall, and include a conservative immigration bill in the package, among others. The amendments did not advance.

If Trump signs the bill, it will be the first time in 22 years that five spending bills were enacted on time. Last week, Trump signed a package of three bills, including military construction and veterans' affairs, legislative branch and energy and water. In total, the five bills amount to some 77 percent of the annual discretionary spending total.

Meanwhile, the House and Senate were rushing to iron out differences on a third package of bills, including Agriculture, Interior, Transportation, and Financial Services and general government.

"It’s just a question of the House seems to want more than we’ve been willing to give them, but we think we’ve met them more than halfway on a lot of things,” Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyDisasters become big chunk of U.S. deficit Lawmakers, Wall Street shrug off Trump's escalating Fed attacks Florida politics play into disaster relief debate MORE (R-Ala.) said.

With the House expected to adjourn on Friday until after the midterm elections, failure to do so would punt action on the bills until November or December.

“I’m very guarded right now. The window might close," Shelby said.