Trump signs spending bills, averts shutdown

Fiscal 2020 appropriations packages become law just ahead of midnight deadline

President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media on the South Lawn of the White House on Oct. 10, 2019. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)
President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media on the South Lawn of the White House on Oct. 10, 2019. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted December 20, 2019 at 10:36pm

President Donald Trump signed two behemoth spending packages totaling $1.4 trillion on Friday night, preventing another year-end government shutdown with an hour and a half to spare.

The existing stopgap funding law was set to expire at midnight.

Unlike the 35-day shutdown that ended in January, another lapse would have affected every federal agency. The 12 spending bills for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2020, were bundled into two separate packages, one carrying security-related measures and another containing domestic programs and foreign aid as well as a collection of tax breaks, health care legislation and more.

The president also signed the fiscal 2020 defense authorization bill at an event at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on Friday night. That measure includes Trump’s prized provisions establishing a new Space Force branch of the U.S. military, as well as up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave for federal workers.

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Trump’s signatures on the fiscal 2020 spending bills end months of back-and-forth between Republicans and Democrats over how best to divvy up this year’s discretionary funding and solve problematic issues like border wall spending — a topic many feared could lead to another shutdown.

The seemingly endless stalemate over the wall ended just over a week ago when appropriators reached agreement to spend $1.375 billion on border barrier construction during fiscal 2020, keeping funding level with the previous fiscal year.

[Senate clears final spending package, wraps for the year]

 Negotiators left the Trump administration’s ability to reprogram funding from certain accounts to the border wall intact, but didn’t backfill $3.6 billion the White House diverted from military construction projects to barrier construction.

Neither side was particularly happy with the compromise; in fact, House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., voted against her own bill. But bipartisan majorities in both chambers were willing to accept the trade-offs in the end, brushing off critiques about a rushed process and essentially just breaking one giant omnibus package into two pieces.

Congress will have about a month off from budget and appropriations before early February when the Trump administration sends its fiscal 2021 budget request to Capitol Hill and the entire process begins anew.

It’s unclear when the Senate’s impeachment trial will begin, how long it will take or how much it will affect the election-year budget cycle. But appropriators already have topline budget numbers for next year in place so they’ll be able to at least avoid the complications that marked the fiscal 2020 process, when spending allocations weren’t determined until July.