- Congress is racing to avoid another government shutdown on Friday.
- Leaders released a 2,232-page funding bill on Wednesday to avert one.
- While the bill would provide funding for a slew of programs, it is also notable for what it does not include.
In what now seems like a monthly tradition in Washington, Congress is barreling toward a government-shutdown deadline, and leaders are banking on a massive last-minute deal to avoid any disruption.
After February’s short-lived shutdown produced the outline of a two-year spending agreement, congressional leaders rolled out a more detailed omnibus spending package on Wednesday, two days before the shutdown deadline.
The 2,232-page bill would allocate nearly $US1.3 trillion of federal funding over the next two years for everything from the military, to disease prevention, to job-training programs. The bill also includes funding for particular legislative projects favoured by both parties and key tweaks to federal law.
The bill is a result of long negotiations among the “big four” congressional leaders: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Paul Ryan, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
“Every bill takes compromise, and there was plenty here, but at the end of the day we Democrats feel very good because so many of our priorities for the middle class were included,” Schumer said in a statement after the bill’s release. “From opioid funding to rural broadband, and from student loans to child care, this bill puts workers and families first.”
Here’s a rundown of some of the major parts of the deal:
- $US1.3 billion in new funding for border security, with serious limitations: The funding can’t be used for a wall along the US-Mexico border – only fencing similar to what exists now. Additionally, the funding couldn’t be used to hire agents for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, who are not stationed on the border.
- Increased funding to protect election systems:The bill includes $US380 million in grants to states to safeguard voting systems and an additional $US307 million to the FBI above the administration’s request to combat Russian cyberattacks.
- Nearly $US4 billion to combat the opioid crisis:The bill includes $US500 million for the National Institutes of Health to research opioid addiction and $US1.4 billion for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
- $US10 billion in new funding for infrastructure:Some key areas of new funding include $US600 million for high-speed internet development, a $US2.6 billion increase for the Federal Highway Administration, and $US1.2 billion more for the Federal Railroad Administration.
- Increased funding for the 2020 Census: The bill will include a $US1.3 billion increase in funding to prepare for it – twice what the Trump administration requested in its budget.
- A fix to the GOP tax law: The bill will contain a fix to the “grain glitch” created by the new Republican tax law. The mistake would have been seriously disruptive to the agricultural industry and the GOP was attempting to get a fix for the past two months. In exchange for agreeing to the fix, Democrats secured more funding for the Low-Income Housing Credit that helps states and cities build affordable housing.
- The bill also includes an extra $US320 million for the Internal Revenue Service to help the agency implement the new law.
- Changes to gun laws: The omnibus adds on Sen. John Cornyn’s “Fix NICS” bill, which would help fortify the national gun background check system. It also includes clarification of existing funding language that previously restricted research into gun violence.
Both parties were fighting for significant legislative priorities to be part of the final package but did not appear to make the final cut. Some omissions include President Donald Trump’s call – echoed by House conservatives – to defund so-called sanctuary cities, as well as a centrist plan to provide funding to shore up the Affordable Care Act insurance marketplaces.
- The plan also does not include a codification of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, a key goal for Democrats.
- It does not provide designated funding for the Gateway project, which includes a tunnel between New Jersey and New York City. It would, however, boost infrastructure grants that could be used toward the project. Trump has staunchly opposed the project, but Schumer and some New York and New Jersey Republicans in Congress have pushed hard for it.
- Reports suggested that Trump may not have been happy with the amount of funding in the package for a border wall – the White House wanted as much as $US25 billion. But following a meeting with Ryan and McConnell, the White House said the president supported the deal.
“The President and the leaders discussed their support for the bill, which includes more funds to rebuild the military, such as the largest pay raise for our troops in a decade, more than 100 miles of new construction for the border wall and other key domestic priorities, like combatting the opioid crisis and rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure,” the statement said.
Ryan’s office also echoed the White House, saying that the meeting was designed to walk the president through the bill and that Trump liked the deal.
“The speaker met with the president this afternoon to discuss the emerging funding bill,” a Ryan spokesperson said. “They had a good conversation about the wins delivered for the president, and he is supportive of the bill.”
Since the bill was released on Wednesday and the House is projected to pass it on Thursday, a single senator could delay its consideration on Friday until after the shutdown deadline at midnight. Such a scenario would be similar to Sen. Rand Paul’s one-man shutdown in February that forced a roughly six-hour lapse in funding.