Republicans and Democrats were one step closer to avoiding another US federal government shutdown on Monday, after congressional negotiators published a $1.3tn legislative package to fund the federal government for the rest of the year.
Nita Lowey, the New York Democrat who chairs the House appropriations committee, said: “I’m pleased that we have reached a bipartisan agreement that will keep government open, provide the certainty of full-year funding, and make strong investments in key priorities for American communities.
“With higher spending levels in line with the bipartisan budget agreement, we are scaling up funding for priorities that will make our country safer and stronger and help hardworking families get ahead,” she added.
Over the northern summer, Congress and the White House sealed a two-year budget deal that suspended the US “debt ceiling” until 2021 and included a $320bn increase in annual spending. While the fiscal year began on October 1, Republicans and Democrats have been wrangling throughout the autumn over how the budget is spent among government departments.
Last month, Donald Trump signed a “continuing resolution”, or short-term spending measure, to fund federal agencies through to this Friday, December 20.
Proposed budget allocation for President Donald Trump’s border wall
With negotiations coming down to the wire, there had been some fears in Washington in recent days that without bipartisan agreement on 12 spending categories — or another continuing resolution — there would be another government shutdown. A failure to reach full agreement last December led to a 35-day partial government shutdown, the longest in US history. That shutdown, which was triggered by Mr Trump’s demands for more than $5bn to build a wall on the US-Mexico border, damaged the president’s approval ratings and cost the US economy billions of dollars.
Last Thursday, Ms Lowey said a “deal in principle” had been reached in co-ordination with Richard Shelby, the Republican from Alabama who chairs the Senate appropriations committee, and Steven Mnuchin, the US Treasury secretary who had negotiated on behalf of the White House. Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House, also participated in crunch talks last week.
But Monday’s announcement, which included the publication of two pieces of bipartisan legislation covering the dozen appropriations categories, assuaged many lingering fears of another shutdown. The bills will be debated and voted on in the House on Tuesday, before being sent to the Senate ahead of the Friday deadline. While the White House has not made a public statement on the legislation, Mr Trump is expected to support the funding package.
The vast legislative package includes concessions for both Democrats and Republicans, including more money for election security efforts, gun violence research, the decennial US Census and military service members’ salaries.
The proposed legislation also allocates $1.4bn for Mr Trump’s border wall, bans sales of tobacco to anyone under the age of 21 and repeals the “Cadillac tax” on generous private health insurance plans — a levy that stemmed from the Affordable Care Act but ended up being unpopular with labour unions and members of both political parties.