Congressional leaders unveiled a massive $1.3 trillion budget that will keep the government funded through the end of September. Negotiations had been going on for weeks and leadership from both parties announced they reached a deal last night. The catch is Congress will have only forty-eight hours to pass the spending bill and keep the government open. The bill must pass by Friday night to keep the government functioning.
The bill will raise the budget for the Defense Department by $80 billion, the largest increase for the Pentagon in fifteen years, including a significant 2.4% pay raise for troops. It includes $21 billion for infrastructure projects as well as about $380 million for election-security measures. There would also be additional money for FBI efforts to fight Russian cyberattacks.
Democrats were successful in keeping cuts to domestic programs like college Pell Grants, the Environmental Protection Agency and public housing out of the bill, but the administration was successful in getting deep cuts to foreign aid put in the budget. Hundreds of millions of dollars are slashed from United Nations’ peacekeeping missions, the United States Agency for International Development and other international measures.
The budget includes only a fraction of what the President requested in funds for a wall along the southern border. The bill calls for $641 million for fencing and other measures like levees, which are being denoted as parts of a “border wall system.”
It also allocated $1.3 billion for other border security technology but does not allocate funds for detention beds or more deportation agents, which was a high-priority for Democrats in the talks. The President had asked for $18 billion in border wall funding to be included in the budget.
The bill includes the so-called FixNICS gun-control provision, which bolsters the nation’s background check system, but does not include the concealed-carry “reciprocity” bill, which allows the cross-honoring of concealed-carry permits by all states. Conservatives had considered the reciprocity measure a counter-balance to the FixNICS provision.
Conservatives in the House as well as the Senate harshly criticized the bill.
“This may be the worst bill I have seen in my time in Congress, the worst bill our leaders have ever allowed to come to the floor,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) said. “The one thing we don’t fund is the one issue we all campaigned on, a border security wall, and that is not in the legislation.”
“Nobody knows what’s in it. I don’t know what’s in the damn thing,” Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) said. “I have no intention of voting for this bill until I know everything that’s in it.”
“Whoever came up with this isn’t qualified to run a food truck,” he added.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has not ruled out blocking the bill from coming to the floor, which under the rules any one Senator can do because of the tight deadline. However, Paul is against the bill whether he votes to block a vote on it or not. “Hell no” is how his position on the bill itself was described, according to a source.