Tue, May 02, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Capitol Hill settles on spending package

VOTE TOMORROW?The bill agreed to on Sunday is the first major bipartisan legislation of Trump’s presidency, but it falls short in several areas that he has focused on


US Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on Thursday last week.

Photo: AP

US lawmakers yesterday unveiled a huge US$1 trillion-plus spending bill that would fund most government operations through September, but would deny US President Donald Trump money for a border wall and rejects his proposed cuts to popular domestic programs.

The 1,665-page bill agreed to on Sunday is the product of weeks of negotiations. It was made public in the predawn hours yesterday and is tentatively scheduled for a House of Representatives vote tomorrow.

The catchall spending bill would be the first major piece of bipartisan legislation to advance during Trump’s short tenure in the White House. While losing on funding for the wall along the US-Mexico border, Trump won a US$15 billion down payment on his request to strengthen the military, though that too fell short of what he requested.

The measure funds the remainder of the current fiscal year, through Sept. 30, rejecting cuts to popular domestic programs targeted by Trump, such as medical research and infrastructure grants.

Successful votes later this week would also clear away any remaining threat of a government shutdown — at least until the Oct. 1 start of the 2018 budget year.

Trump has submitted a partial 2018 budget promising a US$54 billion, 10 percent increase for the Pentagon from current levels, financed by cutting to foreign aid and other nondefense programs by an equal amount.

However, negotiators rejected a smaller US$18 billion package of cuts and instead slightly increased funding for domestic programs.

Democrats were quick to praise the deal.

“This agreement is a good agreement for the American people, and takes the threat of a government shutdown off the table,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat and a key force in the talks. “The bill ensures taxpayer dollars aren’t used to fund an ineffective border wall, excludes poison pill riders, and increases investments in programs that the middle class relies on, like medical research, education and infrastructure.”

However, some Republican conservatives were wary.

“I think you’re going to see conservatives have some real concerns with this legislation,” US Representative Jim Jordan said on CNN, citing domestic spending obtained by Democrats and other issues. “We told [voters] we were going to do a short-term spending bill that was going to come due at the end of April so that we could fight on these very issues, and now it looks like we’re not going to do that.”

The measure is assured of winning bipartisan support in votes this week; the House and Senate have until midnight on Friday to pass the measure to avert a government shutdown.

Democrats played a strong hand in the talks since their votes are needed to pass the bill, even though Republicans control both the White House and Congress. As a result, the measure does not look much different than the deal that could have been struck on former US president Barack Obama’s watch.

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