Border wall, tunnel tussle hold up sweeping spending bill
WASHINGTON (AP) President Donald Trump will reap a huge budget increase for the military while Democrats cement wins on infrastructure and other domestic programs that they failed to get under President Barack Obama if lawmakers can agree on a $1.3 trillion government-wide spending bill before a deadline later this week.
Battles over budget priorities in the huge bill were essentially settled Tuesday, but a scaled-back plan for Trump's border wall and a fight over a tunnel under the Hudson River still held up a final agreement.
Republican leaders were hopeful a deal could be announced as early as Tuesday evening, allowing for a House vote Thursday. If a bill doesn't pass Congress by midnight Friday, the government will shut down for a third time this year.
The measure on the table would provide major funding increases for the Pentagon $80 billion over current limits bringing the military budget to $700 billion and giving GOP defense hawks a long-sought victory.
"We made a promise to the country that we would rebuild our military. Aging equipment, personnel shortages, training lapses, maintenance lapses all of this has cost us," said House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. "With this week's critical funding bill we will begin to reverse that damage."
Domestic accounts would get a generous 10 percent increase on average as well, awarding Democrats the sort of spending increases they sought but never secured during the Obama administration.
Democrats touted billions to fight the nation's opioid addiction epidemic. More than $2 billion would go to strengthen school safety through grants for training, security measures, and treatment for the mentally ill. Medical research at the National Institutes of Health, a longstanding bipartisan priority, would receive a record $3 billion increase to $37 billion.
"We have worked to restore and in many cases increase investments in education, health care, opioids, NIH, child care, college affordability and other domestic and military priorities," said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., a key negotiator of the measure.
Agencies historically unpopular with Republicans, such as the IRS, appear likely to get increases too, in part to prepare for implementation of Trump's recently passed tax measure. The Environmental Protection Agency, always a GOP target, may get a reprieve this year.
Lawmakers agreed on the broad outlines of the budget plan last month, after a standoff forced an overnight shutdown. The legislation implementing that deal is viewed as possibly one of few bills moving through Congress this year, making it a target for lawmakers and lobbyists seeking to attach their top priorities.
But efforts to add on unrelated legislation to tackle politically charged issues, such as immigration and rapidly rising health insurance premiums, appeared to be faltering.
An effort to extend protections for so-called Dreamer immigrants brought to the country as children appears to have failed. Democrats seemed likely to yield on $1.6 billion in wall funding as outlined in Trump's official request for the 2018 budget year, but they were digging in against Trump's plans to hire hundreds of new Border Patrol and immigration enforcement agents.
A dispute over abortion seemed likely to scuttle a Senate GOP plan to provide billions in federal subsidies to insurers to help curb health insurance premium increases.