Congress Set To Unveil $1.3 Trillion Spending Bill

March 21, 2018

Congressional leaders appear to have reached a deal on a $1.3 trillion spending package ahead of a midnight Friday deadline.

The must-pass budget behemoth was still in the works Wednesday afternoon, raising the possibility of the need for another stopgap funding measure to prevent a partial government shutdown while the bill is passing Congress. The agreement is expected to be loaded with dozens of unrelated policies aimed at wooing skeptical lawmakers to back the deal.

Even before the bill had been officially released, the White House announced its support.

“The President had a discussion with Speaker Ryan and Leader McConnell, where they talked about their shared priorities secured in the omnibus spending bill,” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in a statement.

Democrats and Republicans each claimed victories after days of partisan bickering over which extraneous provisions, known as “riders,” to tuck into the bill. They ultimately agreed to include improvements to the national gun background check system.

The bill also includes nearly $1.6 billion in border security increases without addressing a legal fix for the roughly 700,000 immigrants who stand to lose protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA, according to several aides familiar with the negotiations.

Adding riders is a common — if sometimes controversial — practice used by both parties and the president to jockey for their priorities because they are guaranteed to become law on a must-pass spending bill. Adding to the negotiating pressures this round is the looming midterm election and the reality that the political season will soon overtake any ability to advance any major legislation before Election Day.

The underlying spending bill, which bundles together all 12 of the individual annual appropriations bills that fund the U.S. government into what is called an “omnibus” bill, was largely crafted with bipartisan input from the House and Senate appropriations committees in recent weeks.

The bill is expected to include $2.8 billion to battle opioid addition as well as major funding increases for the Department of Veterans Affairs, federal highway projects and high-speed broadband development, the aides said.

The $1.3 trillion measure includes significant boosts to U.S. military spending supported by President Trump and congressional Republicans, while Democrats secured boosts to domestic spending that most Republicans oppose. The domestic spending levels under this bill are higher than any spending Democrats achieved under President Barack Obama.

One of the final sticking points was the president’s insistence that the measure include some measure of funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall. The White House initially wanted $25 billion, but Democrats pushed for a far smaller amount with explicit restrictions on how the money could be spent.

The final $1.6 billion agreement would fund new fencing along roughly 30 miles of the border that was authorized under an earlier bill. Negotiators also reached a deal to repair existing fencing while explicitly protecting the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge in Texas, according to a source familiar with the deal.

Some Democrats remain frustrated that the bill does not deal with immigration. Many immigration advocates worry that DACA cannot pass if it is not included in a broader bipartisan bill. The spending measure is widely expected to be one of the last must-pass bills to come up for a vote this year, meaning immigration has few opportunities for consideration in the coming months.

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