Leaders Finalize US Budget Bill 03/22 06:15
Congressional leaders have finalized a sweeping $1.3 trillion budget bill
that substantially boosts military and domestic spending but leaves behind
young immigrant "Dreamers," deprives President Donald Trump some of his border
wall money and takes only incremental steps to address gun violence.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Congressional leaders have finalized a sweeping $1.3
trillion budget bill that substantially boosts military and domestic spending
but leaves behind young immigrant "Dreamers," deprives President Donald Trump
some of his border wall money and takes only incremental steps to address gun
As negotiators stumbled toward an end-of-the-week deadline to fund the
government or face a federal shutdown, House Speaker Paul Ryan dashed to the
White House amid concerns Trump's support was wavering. Although some
conservative Republicans balked at the size of the spending increases and the
rush to pass the bill, the White House said the president backed the
Trump himself sounded less than enthused, tweeting late Wednesday: "Had to
waste money on Dem giveaways in order to take care of military pay increase and
Talks had stretched into Wednesday evening before the 2,232-page text was
"No bill of this size is perfect," Ryan said. "But this legislation
addresses important priorities and makes us stronger at home and abroad."
Leaders hoped to start voting as soon as Thursday. A stopgap measure may be
needed to ensure federal offices aren't hit with a partial shutdown at midnight
Friday when funding for the government expires.
Negotiators have been working for days --- and nights --- on details of the
bill, which is widely viewed as the last major piece of legislation likely to
move through Congress in this election year. Lawmakers in both parties sought
to attach their top priorities.
Two of the biggest remaining issues had been border wall funds and a
legislative response to gun violence after the clamor for action following
recent school shootings, including the one in Parkland, Florida.
On guns, leaders agreed to tuck in bipartisan provisions to bolster school
safety funds and improve compliance with the criminal background check system
for firearm purchases. The bill states that the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention can do research on gun violence, though not advocacy, an
idea Democrats pushed.
But there was no resolution for Dreamers, the young immigrants who have been
living in the United States illegally since childhood but whose deportation
protections are being challenged in court after Trump tried to end the Deferred
Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.
Democrats temporarily shut down the government earlier this year as they
fought for that protection. But the issue only rose to a discussion item when
Trump made a late-hour push for a deal in exchange for $25 billion in border
Instead, Trump is now poised to win $1.6 billion for barriers along the
border, but none of it for the new prototypes he recently visited in
California. Less than half the nearly 95 miles of border construction,
including levees along the Rio Grande in Texas, would be for new barriers, with
the rest for repair of existing segments.
In one win for immigrant advocates, negotiators rejected Trump's plans to
hire hundreds of new Border Patrol and immigration enforcement agents.
"We are disappointed that we did not reach agreement on Dreamer protections
that were worthy of these patriotic young people," said House Minority Leader
The emerging plan removes a much-debated earmark protecting money for a rail
tunnel under the Hudson River. The item was a top priority of Trump's most
powerful Democratic rival, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York,
but Trump vowed to veto the bill over the earmark. Under the legislation, the
project would remain eligible for funding, however, and a Schumer aide said it
was likely to win well more than half of the $900 million sought for the
project this year.
The core purpose of the bill is to increase spending for military and
domestic programs that have been sharply squeezed under a 2011 agreement that
was supposed to cap spending. It gives Trump a huge budget increase for the
military, while Democrats scored wins on infrastructure and other domestic
programs that they failed to get under President Barack Obama.
That largesse has drawn opposition from some fiscal conservatives and could
make passage a potentially tricky process.
Last month, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul triggered a brief government shutdown
over his objections to the deficit spending. On Wednesday, he tweeted his
opposition to the emerging legislation, known as an "omnibus."
"It's a good thing we have Republican control of Congress or the Democrats
might bust the budget caps, fund planned parenthood and Obamacare, and sneak
gun control without due process into an Omni ... wait, what?" Paul tweeted.
Most essential was support from Trump, who has been known to threaten to
veto legislation even when his team is involved in the negotiations.
Word of Trump's discontent sent Ryan to the White House, where he was
invited to a face-to-face with the president, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch
McConnell on the phone.
White House aides said the president's support was never in doubt, but one
senior White House official said the president was concerned that details of
the package weren't being presented as well as they could be, both to members
of Congress and the public.
The group discussed how they could better sell the package, said the
official, who was granted anonymity to discuss the private conversation.
"The president and the leaders discussed their support for the bill," said
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, adding that it would fund
Trump priorities such as wall construction, add money to combat the opioid
crisis and provide new infrastructure spending.
Both parties touted $4.6 billion in total funding to fight the nation's
opioid addiction epidemic, a $3 billion increase. More than $2 billion would go
to strengthen school safety through grants for training, security measures and
treatment for the mentally ill. Medical research at the National Institutes of
Health, a longstanding bipartisan priority, would receive a record $3 billion
increase to $37 billion. Funding was also included for election security ahead
of the 2018 midterms.
Child care and development block grants would receive a huge $2.4 billion
increase to $5.2 billion. And an Obama-era transportation grant program known
as TIGER would see its budget tripled to $1.5 billion. Head Start for
preschoolers would get a $610 million boost, while an additional $2.4 billion
would go for child care grants.