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House passes three-bill funding package

September 13, 2018

The House on Thursday passed a final three-bill spending package that funds energy, veterans, and legislative branch programs for 2019 and now heads to President Trump’s desk after the Senate easily passed it Wednesday.

The White House has indicated Mr. Trump will sign the measure, which passed on a 377-20 vote. It includes the first batch of the 12 annual spending bills lawmakers need to approve to keep the government running past Sept. 30.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, said it’s a step forward, in the wake of a frenetic, stopgap appropriations process in recent years that helped lead to two brief shutdowns this year alone.

“This represents a return to our most basic responsibility around here, passing appropriation bills,” Mr. Ryan said. “This is the first time since 2007 that the House and the Senate will send multiple appropriation measures to the president’s desk on time.”

The package of three bills provides about $147 billion for programs in energy, water infrastructure, veterans affairs, military construction andfunding for the legislative branch.

House and Senate negotiators also met on Thursday as they work on two more packages they hope to pass by the end of the month.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, Alabama Republican, said the Senate could vote next week on a two-bill package that funds the Departments of Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services and Education through Sept. 30, 2019.

Lawmakers are hopeful they can also pass a four-bill package that would fund agriculture, environmental, financial services, and transportation programs by the end of the month, though they indicated at the conference meeting there is still more negotiating to do on that package.

If Congress can pass those nine of the 12 annual appropriations bills by the end of the month and if Mr. Trump signs them that means about 90 percent of the government would be funded through next September, lessening the threat of a shutdown showdown over money for the president’s desired U.S.-Mexico border wall.

To try to head off major spending fights this year, Mr. Shelby and Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy have made a concerted effort to sidestep what they call “poison pill” riders that zero out funding for hot-button items like environmental regulations, abortion service providers and gun control efforts.

House Republicans can muscle through their own spending bills with sheer numbers, but the final products need to attract at least some Democratic support in the Senate to thwart potential filibusters.

But some House conservatives say they’re frustrated that those riders and conservative priorities they’ve fought for are getting jettisoned once their bills are combined with the Senate versions.

“In the next round of appropriations, conservatives are looking for the conferenced legislation to reflect conservative policy riders such as the ones in the House bill,” said Rep. Mark Walker, a North Carolina Republican who chairs the conservative Republican Study Committee. “Unless this is done, many of our members will find it difficult to support this funding.”

Lawmakers had already indicated that they plan to pass stopgap funding for the final three bills, which cover spending on homeland security, commerce, justice, science and state/foreign operations programs.

Appropriators said Thursday they’re attaching that short-term funding, which will keep the programs running at current-year levels through Dec. 7, to the massive Defense-Labor-Health-Education package, which covers about two-thirds of next year’s discretionary budget.

That means if Mr. Trump wants to veto the homeland security spending to hold out for more money for the wall, he’d also have to effectively veto funding for the Pentagon and U.S. troops as well.

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