A hard-won budget and debt deal easily cleared the Senate on Thursday, powered by President Donald Trump’s endorsement and a bipartisan drive to cement recent spending increases for the Pentagon and domestic agencies.
The legislation passed by a 67-28 vote despite heavy criticism from fiscal conservatives for being huge and bloated.
Passage marked a drama-free solution to a worrisome set of looming Washington deadlines as both allies and adversaries of the president set aside ideology in exchange for relative fiscal peace and stability. The measure, which Trump has promised to sign, would permit the government to resume borrowing to pay all its bills and would set an overall $1.37 trillion limit on agency budgets approved by Congress annually.
It does nothing to stem the government’s spiraling debt and the return of $1 trillion-plus deficits but it also takes away the prospect of a government shutdown in October or the threat of deep automatic spending cuts .
Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., both played nice during the talks that sealed the agreement last week, producing a pragmatic measure that had much for conservatives to dislike.
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Trump did step back from a possible fight over spending increases sought by liberals, and he achieved his priorities on Pentagon budgets and the stock market-soothing borrowing limit.
“Budget Deal is phenomenal for our Great Military, our Vets, and Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!” Trump tweeted before the vote. “Two year deal gets us past the Election. Go for it Republicans, there is always plenty of time to CUT!”
Pelosi won Democratic unity in pushing the bill through the House last week despite divides on issues such as impeachment and health care.
Many of the more solidly conservative Republicans said it allowed for unchecked borrowing and too much spending and voted against it, but there was enough establishment support to pass the bill with Democratic help.
The measure was an epitaph to the 2011 Budget Control Act, which came about due to a tea party-fueled battle over debt limit legislation during the run-up to President Barack Obama’s re-election. That law promised more than $2 trillion in deficit cuts through 2021, including automatic spending cuts that were put in place after the failure of a so-called deficit supercommittee.
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“It’s not just Democrats. Republicans are also guilty. At least the big-government Republicans who will vote for this monstrous addition of debt,” said Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. “Many of the supporters of this debt deal ran around their states for years complaining that, ‘President Obama’s spending too much and borrowing too much,’ and these same Republicans now, the whole disingenuous lot of them, will wiggle their way to the front of the trough.”
The bill would lift the debt limit for two years, into either a second Trump term or the administration of a Democratic successor.
It would reverse scheduled 10 percent cuts to defense and nondefense programs next year, at a two-year cost of more than $200 billion. An additional $100 billion over two years would add to recent gains for military readiness, combating opioids and other domestic initiatives, and would keep pace with rising costs for veterans’ health care.
Those increases alone, assuming they are repeated year after year, promise to add $2 trillion or more to the government’s $22 trillion debt over the coming decade.
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The bill was powered by a coalition of GOP defense hawks, Democrats seeking to preserve gains in domestic accounts, and the leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. Democrats voted for the bill by a wide margin, and it won a healthy majority of Senate Republicans.
“Providing sufficient funding for our military and eliminating the threat of sequestration for good are absolutely necessary for our military to have the budgetary stability and predictability they so desperately need,” said the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla.
It was also a long-sought victory for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who initiated the negotiations and was deeply invested in bringing order and relative predictability to the budget and debt deadlines.
The Associated Press contributed to this article