US Congress expected to vote on budget to avert government shutdown

Annette Crawford
February 10, 2018

But the compromise could face stiff blowback in the lower chamber of Congress, where fiscal conservatives may balk at adding $300 billion to the national debt just months after passing a $1.5 trillion tax cut package.

Hours after the Senate voted, the House also approved a $300 billion bipartisan budget agreement that funds the government until March 23 - ending a five-and-half hour federal freeze that occurred in the wake of a midnight deadline.

Trump's administration was already preparing for a halt in operations.

The underlying bill includes huge spending increases sought by Republicans for the Pentagon along with a big boost demanded by Democrats for domestic agencies.

The massive two-year budget deal proposed by Senate leaders Wednesday raises budget caps by $300 billion in the next two years, increases the debt ceiling and offer up almost $90 billion in disaster relief for hurricane-ravaged Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

Paul's objection drew an angry response from a fellow Republican, Senator Lindsey Graham of SC, who argued America's military desperately needs additional funds after years of budget caps that constrained both the Pentagon and domestic programs. Rand Paul repeatedly held up votes on the budget plan, futilely seeking a vote on reversing spending increases.

Senate Republicans planned a procedural vote on a stand-alone bill to increase military funding for the rest of the year to demonstrate support for Trump's promised defense build-up.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said many lawmakers believe the defense spending in the bill was essential.

The budget bill would not only stave off a shutdown, but would extend the government's debt ceiling until March 2019. But between Schumer's endorsement of the deal and Trump's signal that he'll sign it if it reaches his desk, it's clear that the 60 votes needed for it will be there.

There was also a dispute over whether funding should be allocated towards building a Mexico-United States border wall, a keystone policy during Donald Trump's presidential campaign.

That step alone would help reduce uncertainty in USA financial markets at a turbulent time.

The Senate is likely to vote to reopen the government in the wee hours Friday. Markets barely flinched at the last shutdown in January, but that was before a selloff that started on Jan. 30 amid concerns about inflation and higher interest rates.

Paul is pushing for an amendment to maintain budget caps, but Senate sources say leaders have no plan to give Paul such a concession, meaning that he can continue to prevent a vote until after midnight, when government funding runs out. He had harsh words for his own party.

Pelosi chose not to vote for the plan even as she lauded the plan as very good for the party, but she didn't push other House Dems to vote with her. Really who is to blame?

The shutdown - technically a lapse in agency appropriations - was the second government closure in less than a month, another product of election-year partisan disputes and persistent internal divisions in both parties.

Illinois Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez, the leader of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said he also won't support the bill and predicted other Democrats would also vote no.

Conservatives, including the hard-right Freedom Caucus, were deeply opposed to the deficit spending in the bill.

"So today, they are going to bring over from the Senate a proposal, they are going to lift the caps and they're going to say, let's vote on our budget".

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, announced she would withhold support for the funding deal until Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan commits to a floor vote to address the plight of beneficiaries of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

Trump urged Congress to act before then.

In debate on the House floor, most Democrats focused on the issue of DACA and the Dreamers, demanding a vote on legislation dealing with that immigration matter.

"My commitment to working together on an immigration measure that we can make law is a commitment", he said. "To anyone who doubts my intention to solve this problem and bring up a DACA and immigration bill, do not".

"It provides what the Pentagon needs to restore our military's edge for years to come", said Ryan.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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