Policy

Hill Sends Big Chunk of Next Year’s Money to Trump, Minus His Border Wall

All eyes were elsewhere as House passed $855B measure for fiscal 2019

Speaker Paul D. Ryan says he’s confident the president will sign a widely supported spending bill. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call)

As President Donald Trump gave a stem-winding press conference Wednesday on refusing to meet with the Canadian prime minister, getting laughed at by the United Nations, and what will happen to his embattled Supreme Court nominee, the House was passing legislation.

The chamber voted, 361-61, in favor of a measure that would allocate most of the fiscal 2019 appropriations that Congress controls, along with a continuing resolution to keep much of the rest of the government operating into December.

Now it heads to the president’s desk. While Trump had indicated he might veto the measure over concerns that his border wall request is not being funded as he wants, he struck a different tone Wednesday. “We’re going to keep the government open,” he said of the widely supported legislation.

The conference report on the $855.1 billion spending bill includes the stopgap spending measure plus the $674.4 billion Defense money bill and the $178.1 billion Labor-HHS-Education appropriations legislation.

The Senate had adopted it last week in a 93-7 vote.

“I am confident he’ll sign it,” Speaker Paul D. Ryan told reporters Wednesday morning.

If the bill is enacted, it will be the first time in more than two decades that this much of the federal government’s money will have been provided this early in the year. The Pentagon has begun the fiscal year under a continuing resolution for a decade, and enactment of this package would break that streak. It has been 22 years since the Labor-HHS-Education bill was funded by the beginning of the new fiscal year.

Still, perhaps seven of the dozen annual spending bills will probably not have cleared by Oct. 1. To avoid a partial shutdown, lawmakers attached to the spending package of a stopgap spending measure through Dec. 7 for several departments — including Homeland Security, State, Justice and Commerce.

Notably, the three appropriations bills that fund most of the national security budget — Defense, Energy-Water and Milcon-VA — are likely to be enacted by the start of the fiscal year. The president signed into law last week a package (HR 5895) that comprised the Military Construction-VA, Energy-Water and Legislative Branch measures.

Defense bonanza

The Pentagon spending bill contains $606.5 billion for the so-called base budget, meaning the regular budget, excluding war expenses. That’s the highest amount for the base budget since World War II, adjusted for inflation, experts say.

The Defense measure would also provide another $67.9 billion for overseas operations.

Included in the package is money to hire and retain a larger active and reserve force of over 2 million people, plus funds to give them a 2.6 percent pay raise.

The Pentagon bill would provide billions more than requested to develop and procure weapons, information technology and the like.

For example, the bill would fund 93 F-35 fighter jets, 16 more than the Trump administration’s request, and three Littoral Combat Ships, two more than the administration sought.

Those decisions guarantee that Lockheed Martin’s F-35 assembly facility in House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Kay Granger’s Texas district and shipbuilders in Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby’s own home state of Alabama stay busy.

To pay for more weapons, appropriators are recommending cutbacks in the operations and maintenance accounts that keep systems functioning. Appropriators would also subtract billions from programs deemed to have overstated their budget needs in the coming fiscal year. And aid to foreign fighting forces would take a hit.

Labor-HHS-Education

Aside from the Defense spending, the bill would provide full fiscal 2019 funding for the departments of Education and Labor, and most of the Health and Human Services Department.

All told, it represents around $866 billion in funding for mandatory programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, and around $178.1 billion in discretionary spending subject to budget caps. The bill also includes an extra $2.6 billion for programs outside of negotiated spending caps, which would go toward issues such as biomedical research and anti-fraud initiatives in Medicare and Social Security.

It would provide $90.5 billion in discretionary spending for HHS, spreading around a $2 billion increase compared to fiscal 2018 to provide $39.1 billion for the National Institutes of Health, $7.1 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and $5.7 billion for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Two HHS divisions, representing about 10 percent of the department’s discretionary budget, would benefit from the continuing resolution extending fiscal 2018 funding levels until Dec. 7. The Food and Drug Administration, which is funded along with the Agriculture Department, would receive $5.2 billion for fiscal 2018. The Indian Health Service, which is funded along with the Interior Department, would get $5.5 billion for fiscal 2018. The stopgap spending measure would also provide IHS with an additional $15 million to help operate new facilities that opened during 2018.

Lawmakers are still trying to finalize a separate spending package that would include fiscal 2019 funding for FDA and IHS. Under the House’s proposal, IHS funding would rise to $5.9 billion, while the Senate proposed $5.7 billion. The House has proposed nearly $5.6 billion for FDA, compared to the Senate’s $5.4 billion.

The Education Department would receive a $650 million increase compared to fiscal 2018, for a total of nearly $75 billion. Of that total, around $22.6 billion is meant to be spent in fiscal 2020. About $24.4 billion would be spent on student financial assistance, raising the individual annual Pell Grant amount by $100 to $5,135. Special education programs would receive around $13.5 billion, and school improvement programs would receive around $5.2 billion — each approximately a $100 million increase compared to fiscal 2018.

The Labor Department would see a $218 million decrease compared to fiscal 2018, for a total of $13.5 billion, which includes some fiscal 2020 funding. The decreases come from changes to total spending on unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation, while most of the department’s programs would receive the same funding as this year or see very slight increases.

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