By Andrew Duehren
WASHINGTON -- The Senate passed two, broad spending packages to fund the government after Friday, sending the nearly $1.4 trillion spending agreement to President Trump, who is set to sign the measures.
The spending deal funds dozens of government agencies through the rest of the federal fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, 2020. It pays for a 3.1% increase in pay for military and civilian federal employees, $425 million in election-security grants, and roughly $1.38 billion to build a barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border, among other spending.
The Senate first passed a package of bills focused on domestic programs early Thursday afternoon and passed the second, focused on national-security issues, later in the day.
Attached to the spending packages are a number of unrelated policy provisions, including measures raising the legal age to purchase tobacco products to 21, permanently repealing taxes related to the Affordable Care Act, and extending other tax breaks.
Passage through Congress, while still coming the day before the deadline and the beginning of a holiday break, will mark a bipartisan success even as Republicans and Democrats have battled over the impeachment of Mr. Trump. Only weeks ago, lawmakers in both parties had said they may have to temporarily extend government funding into next year because of the slow pace of negotiations.
Chief among the sticking points was funding for a wall along the southern border, which spurred the longest government shutdown in U.S. history when Mr. Trump pushed Congress to approve more money for the wall. Lawmakers and the White House managed to ultimately sidestep the issue for this fiscal year, reaching an agreement that largely leaves wall spending where it was.
Beyond the $1.38 billion for building new barriers -- less than Mr. Trump's request for $8.6 billion -- the spending legislation doesn't curb the president's ability to transfer money between government accounts.
Mr. Trump declared a national emergency earlier this year to shift funds toward building the wall, including roughly $3.6 billion in military construction funds, in a maneuver that has been challenged in court.
The spending bills don't replace the funding redirected toward wall construction, a key Democratic demand.
Overall, the federal government will spend nearly $50 billion more in discretionary funds this fiscal year than last fiscal year, showering an array of programs popular with Republicans and Democrats with funding increases. While Republicans cheered a boost in military spending, Democrats pointed to increases for domestic priorities, including $25 million in funding for gun violence research.
"This funding is a significant step to combat the gun violence epidemic and rash of school shootings facing our nation. It has been a long time coming," said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.), the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Some Republicans were critical of how quickly the spending increases shuttled through Congress, raising concerns about deficit levels that have soared to more than $1 trillion annually under the Trump administration. In the House, 75 Democrats joined 62 Republicans to vote against the spending package that included funding for a border wall, while 112 Republicans and just 7 Democrats voted against the package that focused on domestic programs.
Members of both parties attributed the comparatively uncomplicated spending negotiations to the effort of Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, who met and spoke with top lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) several times in the weeks before an agreement was reached.
"Secretary Mnuchin, in particular, has been a voice of reason and a driving force in our ability to get to yes," said Sen. Richard Shelby (R., Ala.).
The agreement approved Thursday may be the last major spending legislation before the presidential election is in full swing next fall, adding yet another dimension to the delicate negotiations.
Write to Andrew Duehren at email@example.com