Senate Spending Bills In Peril As Last-Minute Objections Arise

Feb 10, 2018, 02:02
Senate Spending Bills In Peril As Last-Minute Objections Arise

The upper chamber of Congress closed up shop late Thursday and scheduled a reopening for a new session at 12:01 am (0501 GMT) Friday, when it will launch a new effort to pass the bill to extend government funding. Early Friday morning, President Trump signed the bipartisan budget deal that sailed fairly smoothly through Congress once a vote was able to occur.

House GOP leaders shored up support among conservatives for the measure, which would shower the Pentagon with money but add hundreds of billions of dollars to the nation's $20 trillion-plus debt.

Early Friday morning marked the second time in less than a month that the United States government has shut down after failing to meet a midnight deadline, despite Senate leaders coming to a bipartisan agreement to fund the government.

If passed, the bill would then head to the House of Representatives. But they pointed to money they have long sought for the Pentagon, which they say needs huge sums for readiness, training and weapons modernization.

House Speaker Paul Ryan was quoted as saying by BBC the bill was "a great victory for our men and women in uniform" as the military would get more resources. Senate Republicans have pledged to hold a separate immigration debate this month. That additional spending worries some deficit-minded Republicans, and some Democrats are unhappy that immigration isn't part of the measure.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., walks to his office after speaking on the Senate floor, at the Capitol, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018, in Washington., as lawmakers pushed to enact a massive budget deal. "I'm also not advocating for keeping the damn thing open and borrowing a million dollars a minute", Paul said on Fox News.

The 71-to-28 Senate vote, which took place just before 2 a.m., capped a topsy-turvy day that featured filibuster threats, fuming congressional leaders, and frenzied vote counting.

Even without Pelosi, House passage of the budget bill was widely expected because it includes more money for disaster relief, infrastructure and healthcare, which Democrats favour.

The bill is opposed by House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi because Republican House leaders will not guarantee her that they will allow a debate later on about taking steps to protect about 700,000 "Dreamer" immigrants from deportation. The two-year spending deal would complete months of haggling on a variety of issues that have resulted in five incremental spending bills and a three-day government shutdown.

Trump tweeted Friday morning that he had signed the bill, writing that the USA military "will now be stronger than ever before".

But the plan faced criticism from deficit hawks in his own party.

Once known as the party of fiscal conservatism, the Republicans and Trump in December added an estimated US$1.5 trillion to the national debt with a tax overhaul bill, their only significant legislative achievement of 2017.

Congress is expected to vote Thursday on a bipartisan budget deal worth almost $400 billion.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said the measure amounts to "doubling down on the irresponsible mentality in Congress of spend-now-pay-later".

But the deal contains far more money demanded by Democrats than had seemed possible only weeks ago.

Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said Thursday that Democrats may have enough leverage to force Ryan's hand.

The core of the agreement would shatter tight "caps" on defense and domestic programs funded by Congress each year. And if any amendment passed, it would blow up the budget agreement.

The bipartisan compromise would provide the Pentagon and domestic programs with an extra $300 billion over the next two years. Those figures would be slightly increased for the 2019 budget year beginning October 1.

The Marist poll's numbers for Democrats are more optimistic than most polls, with its 11-point lead topping the RealClearPolitics average of 6.7 percent. "But also this includes long delayed disaster funding to aid recovery from the hurricanes and the wildfires".

The agreement would increase the government's borrowing limit to prevent a first-ever default on US obligations that looms in just a few weeks. Such debt limit votes are usually enormous headaches for GOP leaders, but the increase means another vote won't occur before March 2019.

The 650-page spending plan was only unveiled on Wednesday night, so the finer details are unclear.

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