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Senate leaders announce 2-year budget deal

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), joined at

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), joined at left by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), meets with reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018. Credit: AP / J. Scott Applewhite

WASHINGTON — Senate leaders on Wednesday announced a bipartisan $400 billion budget deal to keep government open past Thursday and to set higher spending levels for military and domestic programs for the next two years. But it does not address immigration.

The agreement, which would add about $300 billion in spending levels to the budget over two years and nearly $90 billion for hurricane disaster aid for the gulf states and Puerto Rico, is expected to pass in the Senate on Thursday and then go to the House for a vote.

But it faces a tough and uncertain vote in the House, where the Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), spoke for more than eight hours on the floor opposing it because it does not include a fix for young immigrants brought here as children, and conservative Republicans condemned it for adding a big hike to the deficit.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the agreement included the Republican demand for a massive hikes in defense spending and Democrats’ priorities for much higher spending on domestic programs.

The bill increases spending on defense by $80 billion this year and $85 billion next year, and discretionary nondefense spending by $63 billion this year and $68 billion next year.

“No one would suggest it is perfect, but we worked hard to find common ground and stay focused on serving the American people,” McConnell said.

Schumer said, “After months of legislative logjams, this budget deal is a breakthrough. It should break the long cycle of budget crises.”

A day after calling for a shut down, Trump backed the Senate deal.

“The Budget Agreement today is so important for our great Military,” Trump tweeted “Republicans and Democrats must support our troops and support this Bill!”

Schumer dropped the immigration policy from the budget deal after Democrats forced a three-day government shutdown last month over it, after McConnell promised that once Congress funded the government he would set up a fair and open debate on it.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who supports the deal, said he would bring up legislation to authorize the program that protects immigrants brought here as children from deportation that the president would sign. The program expires March 5.

But Pelosi said, “Without a commitment from Speaker Ryan comparable to the commitment from Leader McConnell, this package does not have my support.”

The McConnell-Schumer deal includes spending levels that lift caps from a 2011 budget agreement, lifts the debt ceiling and includes funding to keep the government open past the midnight Thursday deadline, when funds run out.

“This bill does not conclude the serious work that remains before Congress. After we pass it, the Appropriations Committees will have six weeks to negotiate detailed appropriations and deliver full funding for the remainder of fiscal year 2018,” McConnell said.

The spending includes $6 billion for the opioid and mental health crises; $5.8 billion for the Child Care Development Block Grant program; $4 billion to improve veterans hospitals and clinics, $2 billion for the National Institutes of Health and $4 billion for college affordability.

It also includes a $20 billion kick-start to infrastructure construction and repairs.

Ryan highlighted the key Republican priorities in the deal: it cuts funds from the Obamacare Prevention and Public Health Fund, repeals an Obamacare board that sets the level of Medicare payments, and allows more means-tested Medicare premiums for high-income seniors.

House conservatives still said they oppose the bill because of its domestic spending. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) said, “It is a debt junkie’s wildest dream with all the spending of money that we don’t have, who have to borrow and can’t afford to pay it back.”

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