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Congress Makes Tentative Deal on $1.1 Trillion Spending Bill

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Sunday, 30 Apr 2017 10:52 PM

U.S. House and Senate negotiators reached a tentative bipartisan deal Sunday night on a $1.1 trillion bill to keep the government open through the end of September, according to Republican and Democratic aides.

GOP leaders eager to focus on health care and tax overhauls bowed to Democratic demands to eliminate hundreds of policy restrictions aimed at curbing regulations from the bill, leaving the Trump administration with few victories.

The White House sought funding to begin building the border wall, a well as $18 billion in cuts to domestic agencies, and both demands were rebuffed. The spending deal includes money for Planned Parenthood, despite Republican demands to defund the group over its provision of abortions. The deal’s provisions were described by aides on condition of anonymity ahead of a formal announcement.

President Donald Trump will be able to point to a $15 billion boost for the Pentagon, although $2.5 billion of that money is contingent on the administration delivering a new plan to fight Islamic State. Trump also will get a $1.5 billion for border security, but it can’t be used for the border wall or additional Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, according to a congressional aide. There are also no new restrictions on money going to so-called sanctuary cities that don’t fully enforce federal immigration laws.

"Reports that the package makes a major down payment towards the president’s security priorities are encouraging," John Czwartacki, a spokesman for the White House Office of Management and Budget, said in a statement.

Republicans failed to get a provision in the bill that would have blocked the Labor Department’s fiduciary rule limiting financial advice to retirees.

The National Institutes of Health would also see a $2 billion boost, reflecting the popularity of medical research among lawmakers.

The package would also provide $68 million extra in local law enforcement funds to reimburse New York City and other localities for protecting Trump.

“This agreement is a good agreement for the American people, and takes the threat of a government shutdown off the table,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Sunday night in a statement. “The bill ensures taxpayer dollars aren’t used to fund an ineffective border wall, excludes poison pill riders, and increases investments in programs that the middle-class relies on, like medical research, education, and infrastructure.”

Vote This Week

Under House procedures, if the text of the bill is released before midnight on Sunday, a vote could be held as early as Tuesday.  

The bipartisan deal -- reached by appropriators in both chambers in coordination with party leaders -- would avert a government shutdown when a one-week stop-gap funding bill expires Friday. It would fund the government through Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year.

Agreement on the omnibus bill has been delayed by fights over a number of policy areas; Trump’s dropping of his demand for inclusion of money to begin work last week on wall along the U.S.-Mexico border was the most important breakthrough.

While Republicans control both the House and the Senate, and the White House, congressional Democrats held some leverage in the talks because their votes will be needed in the Senate, and likely the House, for passage of the bill.

The Senate needs 60 votes to advance legislation, meaning the 52 Republicans will need help from at least eight Democrats.

In the House, passing a spending bill for the remainder of fiscal 2017 was always going to be a challenge. A solid bloc of fiscal conservatives regularly oppose big spending bills, and House Republicans have had to rely on some Democratic votes consistently since taking over the majority in 2011. Sixteen House Republicans on Friday voted against the one-week extension of current spending that kept government open.

Delayed Action

The spending bill package would finish the job of appropriating agency spending seven months after the fiscal year began. In December, Congress delayed action on spending legislation at the request of Trump, who had just won the White House and wanted to influence the bills.

Beyond the border wall, obstacles to an agreement included White House resistance to demands from Democrats to guarantee the payment of billions in cost-sharing payments used under Obamacare to offset health-care premiums for low-income people.

The drawn-out fight could have been avoided in December had the incoming administration not instructed Congress to hold off on passing a bipartisan spending measure in order to give it a chance to weigh in.

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U.S. House and Senate negotiators reached a tentative bipartisan deal Sunday night on a $1.1 trillion bill to keep the government open through the end of September, according to Republican and Democratic aides.GOP leaders eager to focus on health care and tax overhauls...
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Sunday, 30 Apr 2017 10:52 PM
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