Despite Rand Paul and a handful of other conservative Senators’s best efforts to kill it, the upper chamber easily passed the long-awaited $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill early Friday morning – sending a bill that would lock in federal funding for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, to President Trump’s desk.
The final 65-32 vote resulted from a week of all-night bargaining sessions and repeated delays before the text of the 2,000+ page bill was released Wednesday morning.
Paul and other conservatives complained that the budget would’ve been adamantly rejected by Republicans if Obama was still in the White House. Republicans touted an $80 billion increase in military spending – which Trump touted as the largest increase in military spending ever – while Democrats highlighted an additional $63 billion in domestic spending, per Bloomberg.
Senator John Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican who opposed the bill, also hinted that he too might try to force a shutdown by delaying the vote after criticizing the vote’s “price tag”.
“It sucks,” Kennedy said of the spending measure. “No thought whatsoever to adding over a trillion dollars in debt.”
In a move that infuriated his fellow Senators, Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho almost sunk the bill after learning that it included language to name an Idaho forest for Cecil Andrus, the former Democratic governor and Carter administration Interior Secretary who died last year. Andrus and Risch were longtime political rivals, per the Wall Street Journal.
The unceasing squabbling over the bill frustrated many lawmakers, including Bob Corker, who loudly complained about the repeated delays to the vote, per Politico.
“This is ridiculous. This is juvenile,” fumed Sen. Bob Corker, who asked McConnell for an explanation of why the chamber was in at midnight. “What has occurred over the last 11 hours that keeps us here voting on a bill that we all know is going to pass?”
The $1.6 billion funding for border security is far less than the Trump administration had demanded. Less than half of that money will be used to build about 33 miles of fencing and levees along Texas’ border with Mexico. The White House had initially demanded $25 billion. meanwhile, Democrats won several major concession – particularly regarding immigration enforcement inside the US. The bill provides for minimal increases in funding for enforcement officers.
Democrats and Republicans also struck a compromise on control, rolling in the bipartisan “Fix NICS” legislation that will bolster reporting by federal agencies to the database for gun-buyer background checks. It also explicitly allows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research the causes of gun violence.
The bill also includes $21 billion for infrastructure projects and an additional $4 billion to combat opioid addiction.
One of the biggest obstacles to reaching the agreement was the status of funding for a Hudson River tunnel between New York and New Jersey. Advocates, mainly Democrats and Republicans representing the two states, argued it is one of the most important infrastructure projects in the U.S. But Trump has insisted on removing money for the project, known as Gateway, from the spending plan.
In a decision that is sure to anger commuters in a region that comprises one-fifth of the country’s GDP, Trump successfully killed funding for the “Gateway” project – that is, the construction of a new tunnel underneath the Hudson River that connects New York City and New Jersey. Democratic leader Chuck Schumer – who represents New York – assured angry voters that the two states would be able to access funding equal to about half of the $900 million initially requested through Amtrak and grants that don’t require approval from the Department of Transportation.
Another $75 million was allocated to train teachers and school officials to respond to attacks. It will also pay for metal detectors and other equipment, while creating anonymous systems for reporting possible threats to schools.
Funding to combat Russian interference in the upcoming midterm elections was included in the spending package, as was $600 million to build a rural broadband network, per WSJ.
As conservatives railed against the budget bill, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell described the bill as “legislation that neither side sees as perfect, but which contains a host of significant victories and important achievements on behalf of the American people.” Among them, he said, are a 15% increase in military spending and funding to combat an opioid epidemic as well as a down payment toward Mr. Trump’s border wall. The National Institutes of Health and Head Start – a popular child-care program – also received more spending.
The deal is the first installment of an informal two-year spending agreement worked out between McConnell, Schumer and Trump that will lift federal spending above curbs set in 2011.
President Trump’s budget director Mick Mulvaney assured reporters that the president will sign the bill – and he has all day to do so.
But while the odds that the bill will be signed into law are extremely high, conservative lawmakers are still trying to convince Trump to reject it, forcing a shutdown that would grant them more leverage in trying to force concessions from both moderate Republicans and Democrats.
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