Tuesday 18 December 2018

US politicians approve huge spending bill to avoid shutdown

More than 100 Republicans in the House and Senate voted against the huge spending spree.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, urged politicians to agree the bill for the sake of the military (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, urged politicians to agree the bill for the sake of the military (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

By Lisa Mascaro and Alan Fram, Associated Press

The US Congress has given its final approval to a giant 1.3 trillion dollar (£920bn) spending bill.

The move ends the budget battles for now, but only after late obstacles skirted close to another shutdown.

Conservatives had objected to big outlays on Democratic priorities at a time when Republicans control the House, Senate and White House.

The Senate’s move averted a third federal shutdown this year, an outcome both parties wanted to avoid.

But in crafting a sweeping deal that busts budget caps, they have stirred conservative opposition and set the contours for the next funding fight ahead of the midterm elections.

The House easily approved the measure on Thursday 256-167, a bipartisan tally that underscored the popularity of the compromise, which funds the government through September.

President Donald Trump was forced to compromise with the Democrats (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

It beefs up military and domestic programmes, delivering federal funds to every corner of the country.

The omnibus spending bill was supposed to be an antidote to the stopgap measures Congress has been forced to pass — five in this fiscal year alone — to keep government temporarily running amid partisan fiscal disputes.

Leaders delivered on President Donald Trump’s top priorities of boosting Pentagon coffers and starting work his promised border wall, while compromising with Democrats on funds for road building, child care development, fighting the opioid crisis and more.

But the result has been unimaginable to many Republicans after campaigning on spending restraints and balanced budgets.

Along with the recent Republican tax cuts law, the bill that stood a foot tall at some lawmakers’ desks ushers in the return of 1 trillion dollar (£710bn) deficits.

Mr Trump only reluctantly backed the bill he would have to sign, according to Republican politicians and aides, who acknowledged the deal involved necessary trade-offs for the Democratic votes needed for passage despite their majority lock on Congress.

Trying to smooth over differences, Republican leaders focused on military increases that were once core to the party’s brand as guardians of national security.

“Vote yes for our military. Vote yes for the safety and the security of this country,” said Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, ahead of voting.

But even that remained a hard sell. In all, 90 House Republicans, including many from the conservative House Freedom Caucus, voted against the bill, as did two dozen Republicans in the Senate.

It was a sign of the entrenched Republican divisions that have made leadership’s job controlling the majority difficult. They will likely repeat on the next budget battle in fall.

Democrats faced their own divisions, particularly after failing to resolve the stalemate over shielding young Dreamer immigrants from deportation as Mr Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme has left it for the courts to decide.

Instead, Mr Trump won 1.6 billion dollars (£1.13bn) to begin building and replacing segments of the wall along the border with Mexico. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus opposed the bill.

Press Association

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