Senate leaders reach sweeping spending deal
iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Bipartisan Senate leaders reached an agreement Wednesday on a sweeping spending deal that would raise caps on military and domestic spending, increase the nation’s debt limit, fund disaster relief efforts around the nation and include long-term funding for community health centers.
The deal includes:
$6 billion to fight the opioid crisis
$5.8 billion for child care development block grant
$4 billion for veterans medical facilities
$2 billion for critical research
$20 billion to augment existing infrastructure programs
$4 billion for college affordability
The Children’s Health Insurance Program would be extended for four years.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called it a “genuine breakthrough” and “the first real sprout of bipartisanship.”
This sweeping agreement does not, however, address immigration, sidestepping the issue that led to a government shutdown last month. Instead, discussions over immigration, including border security and the fate of the “Dreamers,” will continue on a separate, parallel track.
President Donald Trump may have muddied the political waters when he called for another shutdown over immigration on Tuesday, but House and Senate leaders are continuing negotiations to fund the government in both the near and long term.
“We had one Trump shutdown. Nobody wants another — maybe except him,” Schumer told reporters.
The House will still have to vote on the Senate agreement, but various factions in the lower chamber are hesitant to endorse it.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi took the unusual step of holding the House floor for more than two hours to talk about her opposition to a deal, announcing that she cannot support the spending deal unless House Speaker Paul Ryan commits to an open immigration debate, with the opportunity for members to offer amendments.
Without that commitment from Ryan, Pelosi said, the package “does not have my support, nor does it have the support of a large number of members of our caucus.”
In the Senate, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has pledged to bring immigration to the floor for a rare open debate. Pelosi wants Ryan to vow to do the same in the House.
But AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for Ryan, said the speaker has already committed to holding votes on immigration.
“Speaker Ryan has already repeatedly stated we intend to do a DACA and immigration reform bill — one that the president supports,” she said.
Regardless of what happens with this broader spending deal, Congress will still have to pass a short-term stopgap measure to prevent the government from shutting down when the current stopgap funding bill expires Thursday at midnight.
The House on Tuesday passed such a bill to fund the government through March 23, which also included a full year of defense spending. It appeared likely that the Senate would pass that short-term continuing resolution, but strip out the defense spending to include it in the broader two-year deal.
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