Senate passes spending package that would avert shutdown on Oct. 1

September 18, 2018

The Senate on Tuesday passed a spending package that funds the Departments of Defense, Labor, Health and Education through next September and would push off a potential shutdown for the rest of the government until at least early December.

The Senate voted 93-7 to pass the approximately $850 billion “minibus” package, which funds the lion’s share of discretionary spending for fiscal 2019.

The chamber has now approved five of the 12 annual appropriations bills before the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1, as lawmakers continue the best progress they’ve made in years in getting their spending bills done on time.

“To sum up - more support for the best-trained, best-equipped, and strongest military force in the world. More support for the health and prosperity of American communities and workers,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The House is out this week, but will likely take the package up when they return before current-year funding expires at the end of the month. The House and Senate have already sent a three-bill package that funds energy, water development, veterans affairs, military construction, and legislative branch programs through Sept. 30, 2019, to President Trump’s desk.

Appropriators also attached stopgap funding to the Defense-social services package that would keep the rest of the government running until at least early December as they work to finalize the other bills. That would push tougher fights including over money for the president’s desired U.S.-Mexico border wall until after the November elections.

Mr. Trump has been itching for a shutdown showdown to win more money for the wall and other border security efforts. He says he thinks the issue is a political winner but that he could push that fight until after the elections.

Overall, the budget and spending process has devolved in recent years into a series of standoffs and short-term, stopgap funding bills that helped lead to two brief shutdowns this year alone.

But armed with additional money to work within a two-year budget deal struck in February, congressional leaders vowed that this year would be different.

The $674 billion in funding for the Pentagon in the measure that passed Tuesday includes about $143 billion for military personnel, $24 billion for Navy shipbuilding, and money for a 2.6 percent pay raise for U.S. troops - the biggest increase in nine years.

It includes about $90 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services, including a $2 billion boost for the National Institutes of Health, to $39 billion. It also provides about $71 billion for the Department of Education and about $12 billion for the Department of Labor.

Senate leaders also vowed this year to steer clear of controversy by leaving out policy “riders” on hot-button issues like abortion and gun control to the consternation of conservatives, who say the 2019 spending bills should better reflect a Republican-led House and Senate.

But Republican leaders have pointed to a $20 billion boost for the Pentagon next year as a major conservative win. They also say lawmakers in both parties can’t get everything they want because the final packages have to win bipartisan votes to avert a potential Democratic filibuster in the Senate.

In addition to the other three-bill “minibus” package the White House has indicated Mr. Trump will sign, negotiators are also working on a four-bill package they could pass by the end of the month that would fund programs in agriculture, the environment, financial services, and transportation for the full year.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby said there are staff-level meetings planned for Tuesday on that measure.

Lawmakers had already signaled they will need to pass temporary funding for the final three bills that fund programs in homeland security, commerce, justice, science, and state/foreign operations.

That would kick the debate over wall funding past the November elections if the House passes and the president signs the Defense-Labor-Heath-Education package.

The House included $5 billion for wall funding and border security efforts in its 2019 homeland security spending bill, while the Senate included $1.6 billion - in line with the current-year funding level.

Update hourly