HOUSTON (FOX 26) - President Donald Trump on Friday signed a $400 billion budget deal that sharply boosts spending and swells the federal deficit, ending a brief federal government shutdown that happened while most Americans were sleeping and most government offices were closed, anyway.
The House and Senate approved a bill to keep the government funded through March 23, overcoming opposition from liberal Democrats as well as tea party conservatives to endorse enormous spending increases despite looming trillion-dollar deficits. The House voted 240-186 to approve the bill just before dawn Eastern time, hours after the Senate had approved the measure on a 71-28 vote.
This week's panel: Bob Price - Associate Editor Breitbart Texas, , Nyanza Moore - progressive commentator and Houston attorney, Tony Diaz- Chicano educator and activist, Marcus Davis - host of "Sunday Morning Live", Bill King - businessman, columnist and former Kemah Mayor, and Jessica Colon - Republican strategist., join Greg Groogan to discuss the government spending bill.
Trump tweeted Friday morning that he had signed the bill, writing that the U.S. military "will now be stronger than ever before." The budget bill "also means JOBS, JOBS, JOBS!" Trump tweeted.
The twin votes put to rest a brief federal freeze that relatively few would notice. Many who did quickly labeled it a pointless, head-scratching episode. The shutdown was the second partial government shutdown in three weeks.
The breakdown came largely in the Senate, when after a day of inaction, Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky went rogue and stalled a vote in protest over his party's willingness to bust the budget. But Democrats also had their divisions and wrangling, largely with liberal upset the measure were not tied to any plans to assist the "Dreamer" immigrants.
Most Democrats opposed the measure, following the lead of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who tried and failed to use the moment to secure a promise for a separate vote on immigration. Up to the final minutes, it was not clear the bill would pass in the House, and many Democrats held their votes, allowing the tally to creep slowly and giving no indication which way it might fall.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., urged Congress to avoid a "second needless shutdown in a matter of weeks — entirely needless."
In the end, 73 Democrats voted in favor of the bill in the House, while 67 Republicans opposed it.
There was far less drama in the Senate, where the measure sailed through by a 71-28 tally once Paul's protest ran its course.
The White House was forced to order the government shutdown shortly after midnight, but leaders quickly hustled to move before federal employees were due back at work, hoping to minimize the disruption.
The White House kept its distance from the quarreling on Capitol Hill. Trump did not tweet on the issue Thursday and aides did not try to assign blame.
Senate GOP leaders, however, were clearly irked by the debacle. In his attempt to sway Paul to relent, Texas Sen. John Cornyn declared his fellow Republican was "wasting everyone's time" and prompting a shutdown for "no good reason." But Paul, the resident contrarian, repelled suggestions to stand aside.
"I didn't come up here to be part of somebody's club. I didn't come up here to be liked," Paul said.
The budget agreement is married to a six-week temporary funding bill needed to keep the government operating and to provide time to implement the budget pact.
The bill includes huge spending increases sought by Republicans for the Pentagon along with a big boost demanded by Democrats for domestic agencies. Both sides pressed for $89 billion for disaster relief, extending a host of health care provisions, and extending a slew of smaller tax breaks.
It also would increase the government's debt cap, preventing a first-ever default on U.S. obligations that looms in just a few weeks. Such debt limit votes are usually enormous headaches for GOP leaders, but the increase means another vote won't occur before March 2019.
Senate leaders had celebrated the budget deal as a sign they had left behind some of their chronic dysfunction. Just three weeks ago, Senate Democrats sparked a three-day partial government shutdown by staging a filibuster on a spending bill, seeking relief for "Dreamer" immigrants who've lived in the country illegally since they were children.
Senate Democrats had no appetite for another shutdown.
House GOP leaders shored up support among conservatives for the measure, which would shower the Pentagon with money but add hundreds of billions of dollars to the nation's $20 trillion-plus debt.
House Democratic leaders opposed the measure — arguing it should resolve the plight of Dreamers — but not with all their might. Pelosi made it plain she wasn't pressuring her colleagues to kill the bill, which is packed with money for party priorities like infrastructure, combating opioid abuse and helping college students.
"She negotiated the deal. Her team was in on it," said top GOP vote counter Patrick McHenry, R-N.C. "And they were a 'no.' And at the end her team broke."
Pelosi continued to press Ryan for a promise to bring an immigration measure sponsored by Reps. Will Hurd, R-Texas, and Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., up for a vote. But many Democrats backed the spending measure without that assurance.
Ryan said again Thursday he was determined to bring an immigration bill to the floor this year — albeit only one that has Trump's blessing.
"We will solve this DACA problem," Ryan said just before the vote. "Once we get this budget agreement done ... we will focus on bringing that debate to this floor and finding a solution."
The episode was a clear defeat for Democrats who had followed a risky strategy to use the party's leverage on the budget to address immigration. Protection for the Dreamers under former President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, formally expires March 5 and there's no sign that lawmakers are making progress on an agreement to extend the program.
Republicans, too, had their disappointments. Many were sheepish or even angry about the bushels of dollars for Democratic priorities and the return next year of $1 trillion-plus deficits.
"I think the spending in this is reckless and irresponsible," said Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., a conservative who is backed by the tea party.
But many other Republicans pointed to money they have long sought for the Pentagon, which they say needs huge sums for readiness, training and weapons modernization.
"It provides what the Pentagon needs to restore our military's edge for years to come," said Ryan.
Beyond $300 billion worth of increases for the military and domestic programs, the agreement adds $89 billion in overdue disaster aid for hurricane-slammed Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, a politically charged increase in the government's borrowing cap and a grab bag of health and tax provisions. There's also $16 billion to renew a slew of expired tax breaks that Congress seems unable to kill.
"I love bipartisanship, as you know," said Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. "But the problem is the only time we discover bipartisanship is when we spend more money."
WASHINGTON (AP) - Buoyed by the sudden likelihood of a budget pact, lawmakers are on track to avoid a repeat of last month's government shutdown - though President Donald Trump unexpectedly raised the possibility of closing things down again if he can't have his way on immigration.
"I'd love to see a shutdown if we can't get this stuff taken care of," Trump declared Tuesday, repeating the sentiment for emphasis.
Trump's comments were strikingly disconnected from the progress on Capitol Hill, where the House passed a short-term spending measure Tuesday night and Senate leaders were closing in on a larger, long-term pact ahead of a Thursday night deadline. The broader agreement would award whopping spending increases to both the Pentagon and domestic federal programs, as well as approve overdue disaster relief money and, perhaps, crucial legislation to increase the government's borrowing limit and avoid possible default.
Democratic leaders have dropped their strategy of using the funding fight to extract concessions on immigration, specifically on seeking extended protections for the "Dreamer" immigrants who have lived in the country illegally since they were children. Instead, the Democrats prepared to cut a deal that would reap tens of billions of dollars for other priorities - including combatting opioids - while taking their chances on solving the immigration impasse later.
Tuesday night's 245-182 House vote, mostly along party lines, set the machinery in motion. The six-week stopgap spending bill contains increases for the military that long have been demanded by Trump and his GOP allies. But the measure appears increasingly likely to be rewritten by the Senate to include legislation implementing the brewing broader budget pact.
House Democrats canceled a scheduled three-day retreat on Maryland's Eastern Shore to develop a strategy for the midterm elections. A spokeswoman blamed the cancellation on "the pressing issues Congress will likely vote on over the next three days."
The budget negotiations, conducted chiefly by the Senate's top leaders, Republican Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Chuck Schumer of New York, have intensified in recent days - and the looming government shutdown at midnight Thursday added urgency to the talks. In addition to the military and domestic spending, the deal taking shape would approve overdue disaster relief money and, perhaps, crucial legislation to increase the government's borrowing limit and avoid possible default.
Both McConnell and Schumer reported progress Tuesday morning.
"I think we're on the way to getting an agreement and getting it very soon," said McConnell.
Prospects for dealing with immigration, however, were as fuzzy as ever. The Senate is slated next week to begin a debate to address the dilemma of immigrants left vulnerable by the looming expiration of former President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.
Weeks of bargaining have left the two parties divided over how to extend protections for such Dreamer immigrants and a court ruling has blunted a March 5 deadline.
McConnell said Tuesday that while he hopes "we will end up having something," he was unsure if any proposed measure would get the 60 votes needed for approval.
On Tuesday, White House chief of staff John Kelly threw fuel on the dispute as he defended Trump's proposed solution. The retired general noted the White House proposal would expand protection for some 1.8 million immigrants. That group includes both the 690,000 currently shielded and also "the people that some would say were too afraid to sign up, others would say were too lazy to get off their asses, but they didn't sign up," he said.
No. 2 Senate Democratic leader Dick Durbin of Illinois, his party's chief immigration negotiator, bristled at the comment.
"I'm sorry for that characterization. It doesn't surprise me from Gen. Kelly," he said.
The budget talks appeared to be going more smoothly.
GOP defense hawks were prevailing over the party's depleted ranks of deficit hawks, championing major new spending on military programs. Democrats, meanwhile, leveraged their influence to increase spending for domestic priorities such as combating opioid misuse.
The result could be the return of trillion-dollar deficits for the first time since Obama's first term.
The stopgap spending bill would keep the government open through March 23 to allow time to write and pass detailed follow-up "omnibus" legislation to fund the government through the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year.
The prospective longer-term budget agreement would give both the Pentagon and domestic agencies relief from a budget freeze that lawmakers say threatens military readiness and training as well as domestic priorities such as combating opioid abuse and repairing the government's troubled health care system for veterans.
The temporary funding measure would also reauthorize funding for community health centers, which enjoy widespread bipartisan support.
Aides in both parties said the budget measure may also contain a provision to raise the government's $20.5 trillion borrowing limit. Legislation to increase the debt ceiling is always a headache, especially for House GOP leaders whose rank and file have in the past used the votes to register objection to deficit spending.
Another likely addition is more than $80 billion in long-overdue hurricane relief for Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, a top priority of lawmakers in both parties.
Under Congress' arcane ways, a broad-brush agreement to increase legally binding spending "caps" - which would otherwise keep the budgets for the military and domestic agencies essentially frozen - would be approved, then followed by a far more detailed catchall spending bill that would take weeks to negotiate.
It's clear that Senate Democrats have no appetite for another government shutdown. Their unity splintered during last month's three-day closure.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had linked progress on the budget with action to address the immigration program, but other Democrats are beginning to agitate for delinking the two, lest the opportunity for a budget pact be lost. And having tried and failed to link progress on the budget to DACA during last month's government shutdown battle, many Democrats aren't spoiling for a repeat.
"It's hard. If we can get a good deal that funds disaster relief, funds domestic priorities, funds the opioid crisis it would be a difficult call," said Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash. "DACA's important and it ought to get done. But what's the path?"
Schumer said he and Pelosi are "working from the same page," appearing to discount speculation that she might oppose the coming pact.