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VOL. 41 | NO. 17 | Friday, April 28, 2017
Government-wide spending bill headed for a House vote
WASHINGTON (AP) — A government-wide spending bill that President Donald Trump seemed to criticize Tuesday morning but now calls "a clear win for the American people" is headed for a House vote.
The House is scheduled to vote on the bipartisan $1.1 trillion measure Wednesday afternoon. It is a product of weeks of Capitol Hill negotiations in which top Democrats like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi successfully blocked Trump's most controversial proposals, including a down payment on the oft-promised Trump Mexico border wall, cuts to popular domestic programs, and new punishments for so-called sanctuary cities.
The White House instead boasted of $15 billion in emergency funding to jumpstart Trump's promise to rebuild the military and an extra $1.5 billion for border security.
"After years of partisan bickering and gridlock, this bill is a clear win for the American people," Trump said, citing the Pentagon and border money. "This is what winning looks like." Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., also declared victory, but the opinions of top party leaders were not shared by the rank and file.
"From my point of view, we pretty well got our clock cleaned," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
Earlier Tuesday, however, Trump took to Twitter, angrily reacting to media reports depicting Democrats such as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York as winners in the negotiations. He cited Senate rules that empower minority Democrats and tweeted that the U.S. government "needs a good shutdown" this fall to fix a "mess" in the Senate.
At issue is a mammoth, 1,665-page measure to fund the government through September that largely continues a long-established tradition of bipartisan spending deals that boost funding for medical research, aid for schools, and law enforcement accounts, while defending foreign aid, grants to state and local governments, and the Environmental Protection Agency from cuts sought by tea party Republicans.
Democratic votes will be needed to pass the measure even though Republicans control both the White House and Congress, which made Pelosi and Schumer active and powerful participants in the talks, leading to bipartisan outcomes like a $2 billion disaster aid fund, $407 million to combat Western wildfires, and additional grants for transit projects, $100 million in emergency funding to fight the nation's opioid crisis, and a $2 billion increase for medical research at the National Institutes of Health.
The White House and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., both crowed over a hard-fought $1.3 billion provision to preserve health benefits for more than 22,000 retired coal miners and their families, which was included over the opposition of House Speaker Ryan. Pelosi was the driving force behind an effort to give the cash-strapped government of Puerto Rico $295 million to ease its Medicaid burden.
Negotiators on the bill say it looks pretty much like the measure would have looked like if it had been ironed out last year under Obama — save for Trump's add-ons for the Pentagon and the border. Democrats scored some wins as well, and Schumer was quick to run a victory lap in a series of media interviews on Monday that appeared to get under Trump's skin.
"The president is frustrated with the fact that he negotiated in good faith with the Democrats, and they went out to try to spike the football and make him look bad," White House budget director Mick Mulvaney told reporters. Asked about a potential shutdown later in the year, Mulvaney said, "if the Democrats aren't going to behave any better than they have in the last couple of days, it may be inevitable."
Democrats were gleeful at the shutdown talk coming from the highest levels of the White House, which could only increase their leverage in talks on this summer's round of spending bills for 2018, though Schumer demurred when offered a chance to counter Trump.
"This is a good day, and it's a bipartisan day, so I'm not going to get into finger pointing," Schumer said. "It was a bipartisan negotiation as I said. The leaders — Democrat, Republican, House and Senate — work well together. And why ruin that?"