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Congress Approves Spending, Delays DOT Talks

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

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In a race against the clock to avoid a government shutdown, the majority of the U.S. Senate voted last week to approve a $854 billion spending bill that includes funding for the Department of Defense as well as Labor and Education, among other agencies. A bill to address funding for transportation was again delayed, however.

The package—approved 93 to seven—accounts for roughly two-thirds of Congress’s 2019 spending. Fiscal 2019 starts Oct. 1.

2019 Spending Bill

Out of the $854 billion, $785 billion fell within negotiated budget caps, with the remainder coming from off-budget funds such as overseas contingency operations. The package accounts for defense research, military pay raises, workforce development training and other essentials. According to The Washington Post, GOP leaders created the package with Republican and Democratic priorities in mind, in order to attract bipartisan support.

With this legislation, the Department of Homeland Security will be kept operating at 2018 budget levels. The inclusion of the department in the bill has set aside the debate over President Donald J. Trump’s border wall, at least for the time being. Proposed funding for the Pentagon is $606.5 billion, a $17 billion increase over 2018.

dkfielding/Getty Images

In a race against the clock to avoid government shutdown, the majority of the U.S. Senate voted to approve a $854 billion spending bill that includes funding for the Department of Defense as well as Labor and Education, among other agencies. The bill that will address funding for transportation was delayed, however.

It is possible that Trump may still veto the proposed bill, but Congressional leaders are confident that the inclusion of the Department of Defense, as well as the continuing resolution, which extends funding for all other agencies through Dec. 7, will make it difficult for the president to reject the proposal.

Even though funding may be stretched to early December, senators are prepared for a fight over funding the border wall. The House is opting for $5 billion in funding, while the Senate is offering $1.5 billion along with limited spending on shoring up existing barriers.

Transportation Funding Delay

The House is currently not in session, but will return next week to complete a package that will include funding for transportation and housing and urban development programs, among others. The Senate’s proposal for transportation funding includes $26.6 billion in discretionary spending.

Despite negotiation among parties, President Trump is still holding out the possibility of a government shutdown in order to get the funding he deems necessary for the border wall. (The Senate’s proposal of $1.5 billion matches the president’s initial request.)

“This is the first time in over a decade that Congress will be sending more than one appropriations bill to the president’s desk before Sept. 30,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-New Jersey. “We’ve done our best to repair this broken appropriations process.”

“Success here would generate momentum for the critical work that lies ahead. For example, a couple of weeks ago the Senate passed another appropriations package that contained the Defense and Labor-[Health and Human Services] bills,” said Senate funding leader Richard Shelby, R-Alabama.


Tagged categories: Funding; Government; Infrastructure; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Transportation

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