Senate sends $1.1T spending bill to Pres. Trump

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., flanked by, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., left, and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, May 2, 2017, following a policy luncheon. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate has delivered to President Donald Trump the first significant legislation of his presidency, a bipartisan $1.1 trillion spending bill that would keep the government running through September — putting off, for now, battles over Trump’s U.S.-Mexico border wall and his promised military buildup.

The lopsided, 79-18 Senate vote sends the huge bill to the White House in plenty of time to avert a midnight Friday shutdown deadline.

Negotiators on the bill dropped Trump’s demands for a down payment on his oft-promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, but his signature would buy five months of funding stability while lawmakers argue over the wall and over Trump’s demands for a huge military buildup matched by cuts to popular domestic programs and foreign aid accounts.

The House passed the measure Wednesday on a big bipartisan vote, though 103 of the chamber’s conservative Republicans opposed the bill.

The White House and its GOP allies praised $15 billion in additional Pentagon spending obtained by Trump and $1.5 billion in emergency border security funds but was denied funding to begin construction work on the border wall.

“After years of an administration that failed to get serious on border security, this bill provides the largest border-security funding increase in a decade,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., a key negotiator.

And Democrats and the pragmatic Republicans who negotiated the bill successfully defended other accounts targeted by Trump such as foreign aid, the Environmental Protection Agency, support for the arts, and economic development grants, among others.

The sweeping, 1,665-page bill also increases spending for NASA, medical research, and the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies.

Democrats also praised the measure as an example of bipartisan cooperation in the handling of the 12 annual appropriations bills that fund the federal government. It reflects bipartisan culture among congressional appropriators, who long ago sorted out many of the spending fights Trump wants to renew this summer — over foreign aid, funding for the arts, Amtrak subsidies, grants to state and local governments, and development agencies like the Appalachian Regional Commission.

“On a bipartisan basis, we rejected President Trump’s ill-considered proposal to slash domestic programs by $15 billion, including deep cuts for NIH and low-income energy assistance. Instead, this bill includes a $2 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health,” said a top Democratic negotiator, Sen. Pat Leahy of Vermont, who called the bill “a good deal for the American people.”

Trump took to Twitter earlier this week to complain about the bipartisan process that produced the measure but changed course to crow about additional spending for the military and border security. The White House has said he’ll sign the bill.

One of Trump’s tweets advocated for a “good shutdown” this fall to fix the “mess” that produced the bill, though he appeared at the White House just hours later to boast that it was a big win for him.

Congressional Republicans — motivated in great measure by fear of a politically damaging government shutdown — worked closely with minority party Democrats to produce the measure, which made only small changes to most accounts covered by the measure.

But many rank-and-file Republicans saw the bill as a lost opportunity for a fight that could have produced victories on the wall and punishing “sanctuary” cities that fail to cooperate with immigration authorities.

“It is a win for Democrats and a loss for conservatives,” said tea party Rep. Dave Brat, R-Va. “We have a Republican in the White House and control of both chambers of Congress yet this legislation fails to include key conservative reforms Republicans have long-advocated.”

Even supporters of the bill dislike the secretive, closed-door negotiations that produced it and delivered it seven months behind schedule while denying anyone the opportunity to amend it.

“Is there any member of the United States Senate that has read this?” asked Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. “And many of us are going to be compelled to vote for it because we don’t want to shut the government down.”

Meanwhile, retired union coal miners won a $1.3 billion provision to preserve health benefits for more than 22,000 retirees. House Democrats won funding to give the cash-strapped government of Puerto Rico $295 million to ease its Medicaid burden.

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