Congressional leaders agreed to a $US1.07 trillion bill to keep the federal government open late Sunday, but both Democrats and Republicans left the negotiations without some of their biggest priorities.
Two of the big asks from both sides did not find their way into the budget deal, which made the process smoother for now but likely sets up a number of political battles down the road.
Democrats hoped to include funding for the Affordable Care Act’s cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments in the legislation.
The payments, which help defray the cost of providing low-income Americans with cheaper health insurance plans, are seen as critical to ensure the stabilisation of the ACA’s individual insurance markets.
Currently, the payments are appropriated by the White House rather than Congress, and Trump has threatened to end the payments. The payments are also subject to an ongoing lawsuit between the House and executive branch questioning the legality of their funding without a congressional appropriation. While the Obama administration defended the case, Trump could drop an appeal of a ruling from 2016 in which a court sided with House Republicans.
Instead of the payments being included in the funding bill, however, the White House said it would continue the CSR payments for the time being.
With a court date for the House lawsuit set for May and insurers asking for clarity before a June deadline to submit exchange plans for 2018 to regulators, the CSR issue won’t be going away.
The border wall
The White House had pushed to include funding for the wall along the US-Mexico border in the spending bill.
Though it’s unclear how much congressional leaders wanted to push for wall funding in the bill, several White House officials were insistent.
Last week, both Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly framed the stakes of the battle around the border wall.
Trump also took to Twitter to promise that the wall would be built.
But Trump backed down from his demands last week, telling conservative media members that he was willing to delay the wall-funding battle until September.
Instead, the bill includes increased funding for border-security measures and the military, but no mention of the wall.
Congressional GOP leaders said little about the wall during the negotiations and simply seemed intent on avoiding a shutdown. Weakening any position was the likelihood that conservative Republicans, especially in the House Freedom Caucus, would oppose any legislation without large spending cuts. That meant GOP leaders had to get bipartisan support — and Democrats made it clear that wall funding was a non-starter.
The fear of a conservative pushback was confirmed Monday as Rep. Jim Jordan, a member of the Freedom Caucus, said many conservatives will oppose the spending bill.
Trump’s other major priority, a cut in funding for so-called sanctuary cities, was also dropped from the legislation.
Both sides were able to come away with smaller agenda items that they portrayed as victories.
Democrats secured funding for Puerto Rico’s Medicaid program, while Republicans touted the increase in border-security funding and the fact that defence spending outweighed non-defence spending.
But the fact that the big-ticket items remain unresolved likely mean a new battle over the summer and into September, when the funding bill will again be set to expire.
The current deal will be considered by the House Rules committee on Tuesday and then advanced for a vote.
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