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US spending deal: More military funds, none for border wall

Lawmakers increase military spending in a deal to fund the US government through September © AFP/File / SAUL LOEB

Washington, United States, May 1 – US congressional leaders on Monday unveiled a bipartisan deal funding government through September, with a compromise that includes President Donald Trump’s call for increased military spending but ignores his demand to fund a border wall.

The agreement was struck late Sunday after weeks of tense negotiations fuelled the threat of a government shutdown just as Trump was to mark his 100th day in office.

Congress is expected to vote this week on the new bill, which provides $1.163 trillion in overall federal spending, ahead of a Friday night deadline when government funding would expire absent a new agreement.

The leaders in the Republican-controlled Congress will need support from Democrats in the Senate in order to pass the legislation.

Despite Republicans running Congress and the White House, the opposition party has hailed the spending bill as a victory because the Trump administration has punted on several elements that Trump had deemed priorities during his presidential campaign.

Notably it includes no money for Trump’s border wall.

Trump made building the wall along the southern US border with Mexico one of the primary pledges of his campaign, insisting it would begin within his first 100 days, a milestone that came and went on Saturday.

But Republicans are pleased because the bill adds some $1.5 billion in funding for other security efforts along the nearly 2,000-mile (3,218-kilometer) border, and boosts military spending.

Of the trillion dollars in the bill’s discretionary spending, $598.5 billion is slated for defense — an increase of $25 billion, or 4.5 percent, above fiscal year 2016 levels, and 3.8 percent above the request by Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama last year.

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It also funds an authorized 2.1 percent pay raise for the military.

The deal makes America “stronger and safer,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said in statement, because “it acts on President Trump’s commitment to rebuild our military for the 21st century and bolster our nation’s border security to protect our homeland.”

– Democratic victories –

The news that Congress reached a deal to avert a shutdown helped send stocks rising in Asia and in early US trade.

The measure adds $2 billion in new funding for the National Institutes of Health, and, despite calls by social conservatives, does not defund the women’s health care giant Planned Parenthood.

It also maintains 99 percent of federal spending for the Environmental Protection Agency, in what can be interpreted as another broad victory for Democrats.

Trump had proposed slashing EPA funds by more than 30 percent, a cut that would have cost thousands of jobs and reduced critical programs like grants for public water systems.

The two parties also managed to come together to extend health benefits for retired miners and their widows. And they agreed to increase funding to address the nation’s opioid addiction crisis by $650 million for 2017.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer hailed the measure as a “good agreement” for the American people.

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“The bill ensures taxpayer dollars aren’t used to fund an ineffective border wall, excludes poison pill riders, and increases investments in programs that the middle-class relies on, like medical research, education, and infrastructure,” he said.

The agreement would keep federal operations running through September 30, the end of the fiscal year.

The congressional cooperation comes on the heels of an embarrassing setback for Trump on health care, when his bid to pass legislation that repeals and replaces most of Obama’s landmark health reform law collapsed in March.

He sought to revive the effort last week but Ryan held off when he acknowledged he did not yet have the votes, as some Republicans remained skeptical of the revised legislation.

Trump’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus, said Monday he was optimistic that the health bill can reach the House floor this week.

“I certainly hope so,” Priebus told CBS News. “I think it will happen this week.”


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