External Affairs

US Congress Hammers out Deal to Fund Government Through Fiscal Year

If this deal passes Congress and the president signs it into law, it would mark the first significant bipartisan legislation since Trump took office.

US President Donald Trump delivers remarks at the National Rifle Association (NRA) leadership forum at the Georgia World Congress Centre in Atlanta, Georgia, US, April 28, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst/Files

Washington: US congressional negotiators have hammered out a bipartisan agreement on a spending package to keep the federal government funded through the end of the current fiscal year on September 30, a senior congressional aide said on Sunday.

The House of Representatives and Senate must approve the deal before the end of Friday and send it to President Donald Trump for his signature to avoid the first government shutdown since 2013.

On Friday, congressional sources familiar with the negotiations said the deal could include an increase in defence spending for this year totaling around $15 billion. But details of the defence portion of the agreement that was struck over the weekend were not immediately available.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said the agreement would increase funding for Puerto Rico’s Medicaid healthcare program for the poor, which is facing shortfalls later this year. She did not specify how much more money Puerto Rico would get, however.

Pelosi added that the massive spending bill will also increase funding for several Democratic priorities, including the National Institutes of Health by $2 billion this year. The measure would deliver permanent health benefits for coal miners and their families who faced losing their insurance next month.

During the negotiations, Democrats pushed to protect funding for women’s healthcare provider Planned Parenthood, but details were not yet available.

The house is likely to vote first on the package, probably early in the week and send the measure to the Senate for approval before Friday’s midnight deadline when existing funds expire.

Republicans who control congress and opposition Democrats have been in intensive negotiations for weeks over the legislation that would provide around $1 trillion in Washington money for an array of federal programs, from airport and border security operations to soldiers’ pay, medical research, foreign aid and domestic education programs.

If this deal passes congress and the president signs it into law, as expected, it would mark the first significant bipartisan legislation passing congress this year and since Trump took office on January 20.

Congress averted a US government shutdown last Friday by voting for a stop-gap spending bill that gave lawmakers another week to work out federal spending over the final five months of the fiscal year.

Even with the new progress, lawmakers are running far behind schedule, as legislation funding government operations in fiscal year 2017 were supposed to have been completed by last October 1.

Democrats backed Friday’s stop-gap bill a day after House Republican leaders again put off a vote on major healthcare legislation sought by Trump and opposed by Democrats to dismantle the 2010 Affordable Care Act, dubbed Obamacare, after Republican moderates balked at provisions added to entice hard-line conservatives.

It was unclear whether Republicans might try this week to pass a healthcare bill in the house.

Trump earlier bowed to Democratic demands that the spending legislation for the rest of the fiscal year not include money to start building a wall along the US-Mexico border he said is needed to fight illegal immigration and stop drug smugglers.

The Trump administration also agreed to continue funding for a major component of Obamacare despite Republican vows to end the program.