CFA Society Singapore
WASHINGTON (May 4): The House passed a shutdown-avoiding US$1.17 trillion ($1.63 trillion) spending bill that President Donald Trump plans to sign even though Democrats were able to defeat most of his wish list, including money for a wall at the US-Mexico border.
The 309-118 vote Wednesday sends the measure to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he hopes to hold a vote Thursday. While the measure buys peace for five months, Trump on Tuesday threatened a "good shutdown" in September or a Senate rule change to keep the minority party from wielding similar power on the next spending plan.
Democrats claimed victory over Republicans on the bipartisan measure, which excluded funding for the southern border wall and avoided US$18 billion in domestic spending cuts sought by Trump. White House budget director Mick Mulvaney accused Democrats of “spiking the football” and said the bill’s US$21 billion in added defense spending -- which includes US$6 billion from the Obama administration -- was a win for Republicans.
"This is a great deal for the president," White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters before the vote.
Those voting for the spending bill included 131 Republicans and 178 Democrats, while the measure was opposed by 103 Republicans and 15 Democrats.
Trump will sign the spending measure if passed by the Senate in its current form, the administration said in a statement. The White House did express concern about Congress’s lack of “fiscal restraint,” and Trump complained on Twitter that the compromise was needed because "we need 60 votes in the Senate which are not there!"
‘Uninformed and Irresponsible’
Second-ranking House Democrat Steny Hoyer of Maryland sharply criticized Trump’s shutdown threat as "flippant, uninformed and irresponsible." The spending bill "reflects both rationality and reasonableness" and includes provisions backed by both parties, he said on the House floor.
Representative John Yarmuth of Kentucky, the top Democrat on the Budget Committee, said in an interview, "This sets the framework for the next negotiations and the dynamics aren’t going to change; they’re still going to need our votes.”
Wednesday’s vote was overshadowed in the House by intense talks over whether Republicans will gain enough support to vote on their plan to overhaul Obamacare. Key holdout Fred Upton of Michigan announced his support after offering an amendment to provide more federal funds for people with pre-existing conditions. GOP leaders hope to hold a vote before leaving for a week-long recess.
The spending bill agreement demonstrates the constraints on a unified Republican government that still needs Democratic help to overcome a filibuster in the Senate. With 52 Republican senators and a fractured GOP majority in the House, most legislation still needs bipartisan support to become law. A number of House Republicans regularly refuse to support large spending bills.
Democrats succeeded in eliminating 160 policy provisions they opposed, secured health benefits for retired miners and helped Puerto Rico fund its Medicaid program. Instead of placing stricter limits on legal immigration, the spending bill extends an investor visa program, expands a low-skilled workers’ visa program and would allow thousands of more Afghan refugees.
House Speaker Paul Ryan praised the bill’s increased military spending and called it a win for Republicans.
"Many of our priorities are advanced in this, and that’s because this is a bipartisan piece of legislation," Ryan said on the House floor before the vote. "It turns the page on the last administration, on the Obama years."
House Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows of North Carolina said Wednesday that he would vote against the omnibus spending bill due to "a lack of conservative priorities" in it and that the next spending measure should reflect Republican control of the White House, Senate and the House.
"If we do not do things differently there will be a day of reckoning in about two years in November of 2018," Meadows said.
The measure would make only a small spending cut for the Environmental Protection Agency, which Trump wanted to slash, while the National Institutes of Health, also on Trump’s chopping block, would receive a US$2 billion increase.
The bill, H.R. 244, has an additional US$1.5 billion for border security, including 5,000 more immigration detention beds, though that money can’t be spent on a border wall.
Debate on Wall
“This summer we will have a big debate and decision about the full longer-term funding for the wall,” Ryan said earlier Wednesday in an interview with a Wisconsin radio station.
Wall Street lobbyists lost their fight to have the bill curb Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Dodd-Frank bank regulations. The Securities and Exchange Commission will be funded at US$1.6 billion and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission at US$250 million, the same amounts as in 2016.
New defense spending in the measure is geared toward weapons programs, a boon to defense contractors General Dynamics Corp., Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc., Lockheed Martin Corp., Austal Ltd. and Boeing Co.
The bill also authorizes intelligence policies through September, creating an interagency committee to counter and curtail Russian intelligence activities following that country’s interference in the 2016 election.
The intelligence provisions seek to monitor and limit the movements of Russia diplomats in the US The secretary of state and intelligence agency chiefs would establish an advance notification system for all Russian accredited diplomatic and consular personnel in the US, as well as a way to ensure diplomats comply and to address violations.
Republicans plan in coming weeks to introduce a fiscal 2018 budget resolution to jump-start the next round of spending bills needed to keep the government open starting Oct. 1.