Spending plan remains unsettled as clock ticks toward shutdown deadline

Violet Powell
February 8, 2018

The House is set to vote Tuesday evening on a spending bill that would fund military funding through September at boosted levels but leave other agencies running on fumes until March.

That deal would eliminate strict budget caps, set in 2011 to reduce the federal deficit, and allow Congress to increase defense spending by $165 billion over two years and hike domestic spending by $131 billion over that time frame.

"This bill is the product of extensive negotiations among congressional leaders and the White House", Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, said on the Senate floor. "No one would suggest it was flawless, but we worked hard to find common ground and stay focused on serving the American people".

Congress is on the verge of a long-term budget pact that would provide whopping spending increases to the Pentagon and domestic federal programs, overdue disaster relief money and, perhaps, legislation to increase the government's borrowing limit. Trump threatened on Tuesday to upend budget talks by saying he would welcome a government shutdown if Congress were not able to agree to changes in immigration law that he said would prevent criminals from entering the country.

She spoke as liberal activists protested that many Democrats were moving to leave Dreamer immigrants behind in grabbing the budget deal, a longstanding goal for the party.

"I don't know when we'll have another opportunity that matches today for us to just get a simple commitment from the speaker of the House that he will give us a vote", Pelosi said. That bill also included a full year of funding for defense spending. "This still also increases budget caps, ends the sequester, and provides certainty for the next two years", she added.

The budget deal, which was proposed by Senate leaders on Wednesday, will require Democratic support to pass the House, so the House Democratic leader's comments make the plan's future unclear. Current federal funding runs out at midnight on Thursday, and if Congress does not pass a new spending bill, it will trigger a partial government shutdown. It would contain nearly $300 billion over current limits on defense and domestic accounts.

Meadows' group backs big defence increases but opposes boosting domestic spending.

"Congress should reject this deal", said Justin Bogie, a senior policy analyst with the influential conservative Heritage Foundation.

The budget agreement would also negate the president's demands to broadly reorder government with deep cuts to domestic programs like environmental protection, foreign aid and health research that were to offset large increases in military spending.

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Many House Republicans expressed similar hope that the Senate would pass the bill but acknowledged the likelihood it would be rejected and amended with an alternative the House will have to later consider.

House Democrats have been cheering Pelosi on on social media, using the hashtag #GoNancyGo and have been seen sitting behind her, observing her filibuster.

In the Senate, McConnell has pledged to begin an open debate on the Senate floor to see if senators can find 60 votes there on a bipartisan immigration deal to determine the fate of people who were brought to the US illegally as children.

The Senate and House will both vote on Thursday, so Wednesday will be a day for the deal, if it is announced, to settle in and marinate.

And moderate Democratic senators seeking reelection in states President Trump won in 2016 urged Pelosi to support an impending budget agreement despite concerns with immigration policy.

He added that the accord includes a sizable disaster relief package that will help Puerto Rico, Florida and Texas recover from Hurricanes Maria, Irma and Harvey past year.

But after last month's three-day government shutdown, Senate Democrats were willing to finalize a budget deal separately from the debate over immigration.

Before Pelosi's speech Wednesday, the longest floor remarks from a leader came from then-House GOP Leader John Boehner in 2009 speaking against the Democrats' cap and trade legislation. But with the Senate unlikely to swallow the House bill, lawmakers could be forced to return to Washington to vote again before the deadline.

Defense hawks have long sought to restore funding for military programs that saw their budgets shrunk as a result of the automatic, across-the-board cuts that were part of a deal to avoid previous shutdowns. Sen.

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