Congress passed a $1.3 trillion government spending bill in a vote held early on Friday. The bill that sees an unprecedented increase in defense spending was sent to the President to sign it into law. The bill is also set to prevent a potential government shutdown, keeping federal agencies funded until September 30.
The Senate voted 65-32 for the bill just a few hours after lawmakers in the House of Representatives passed it 256-167. The vote was a culmination of a long struggle in Congress regarding government spending. The bill should have been passed as early as October 1st but disagreements among lawmakers on both sides delayed it. Spending bills are passed to prevent a government shutdown. Despite lawmakers’ efforts, two brief shutdowns were reported in October.
Although the GOP controls both chambers of the Congress, the party has struggled to pass any legislation on the budget. There were several Republican lawmakers who voted against the current $1.3 trillion spending bill. Senator Rand Paul, in particular, expressed open opposition to the bill saying that it was an unnecessary spending spree. The Senator called the passing of the bill a big shame for both chambers of the Congress.
Mark Meadows, head of the Freedom Caucus and member of the House of Representatives, also criticized the spending bill saying it negated all the promises that lawmakers had made to their voters. But the spending bill has some important provisions that appeal to Republicans including funding for the border wall and an increase of $80 billion in defense spending. However, the huge spending bill has raised some concerns among a number of Republicans. 90 of the 238 GOP reps in the house opposed the spending bill.
The latest government funding bill is expected to lead to a total budget deficit of $800 billion this year. Republicans are worried that such a huge deficit could be problematic in the upcoming midterms. A number of Trump proposals were also rejected. Massive funding cuts to the EPA and other Federal agencies were scaled back with the $25 billion budget for the proposed border wall also failing to come through.
However, White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said that even though the bill didn’t deliver everything that Trump administration wanted, they were happy with the provisions so far. President Trump also expressed some level of satisfaction with the bill on Twitter saying that the $1.6 billion offered for the border wall would be crucial for starting work on the southern border.
But Democratic senators were clear that the funding was only meant to rehabilitate existing barriers and not build a new concrete edifice. The money would also be used to bring in more border patrol officers. The bill has made provisions for infrastructure improvement too and countering Russian election hacking. The spending package is now on the President’s desk awaiting his signature.