Big budget hailed as ‘genuine breakthrough’
WASHINGTON– Senate leaders announced Wednesday they have sealed agreement on a two-year budget pact that would shower the Pentagon and domestic programs with almost $300 billion above existing limits, giving wins to both GOP defense hawks and Democrats seeking billions for infrastructure projects and combatting opioid abuse.
The agreement is likely to be added to a stopgap spending bill that passed the House on Tuesday, aimed at averting a government shutdown Thursday at midnight. Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York called the Senate agreement “a genuine breakthrough.”
The White House announced its support despite huge increases for domestic programs sought by President Donald Trump’s Democratic rivals.
“This bill achieves our top priority, a much needed increase in funding for our national defense,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. “The bottom line is that thanks to President Trump we can now have the strongest military we have ever had.”
However, it would not resolve the plight of immigrant “Dreamers” who face deportation after being brought to the U.S. illegally as children. As the Senate leaders were announcing their agreement, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California was holding the floor in the House, declaring she would oppose the measure unless her chamber’s GOP leaders promised a vote on legislation to protect the younger immigrants.
That introduced doubts as to whether the plan could pass in House, where prominent GOP conservatives are also opposed to the higher spending.
The Senate agreement also contains almost $90 billion in overdue disaster aid for hurricane-slammed Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. That would bring the total appropriated for disaster aid in the wake of last year’s disastrous hurricane season to almost $140 billion.
The agreement would increase the government’s borrowing cap to prevent a first-ever default on U.S. obligations that looms in just a few weeks. The debt limit would be suspended through March of 2019, Sanders said, putting the next vote on it safely past this year’s midterm elections.
The House Tuesday passed legislation to keep the government running through March 23, marrying the stopgap spending measure with a $659 billion Pentagon spending plan, but the Senate plan would rewrite that measure.
Senate Democratic leaders have dropped their strategy of using the funding fight to extract concessions on immigration, specifically on seeking extended protections for the “Dreamer” immigrants. Instead, Senate Minority Leader Schumer, D-N.Y., went with a deal that would reap tens of billions of dollars for other priorities while hoping to solve the immigration impasse later.