Senate leaders hope to approve a budget deal Thursday to keep the government operating past midnight amid opposition from Democratic liberals and tea-party Republicans. The agreement would shower the military and domestic programs with an extra $300 billion over the next two years.
The measure was a win for Republican allies of the Pentagon and for Democrats seeking more for infrastructure projects and combating opioid abuse.
But it represented a bitter defeat for many hardcore liberal Democrats who sought to use the party’s leverage on the budget to resolve the plight of illegal immigrant “Dreamers” who face deportation. And even some tea party Republicans shredded the measure as a budget-buster.
Beyond the $300 billion figure, the agreement adds almost $90 billion in overdue disaster aid for hurricane-slammed Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.
Senate leaders hope to approve the measure Thursday and send it to the House for a confirming vote before the government begins to shut down Thursday at midnight. But hurdles remain to avert the second shutdown in a month.
While Senate Democrats celebrated the moment of rare bipartisanship — Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called it a “genuine breakthrough” — leftists and angry liberals blasted them for leaving illegal immigrants in legislative limbo. Top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi of California, herself a key architect of the budget plan, suddenly announced her opposition Wednesday morning to the plan she wrote. The suddenly, unexplained flip-flopping had critics questioning Pelosi’s mental well being.
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“Let Congress work its will,” Pelosi said, before holding the floor for more than eight hours without a break. “What are you afraid of?”
The White House backed the deal. During the negotiation, President Donald Trump’s earlier warned that he’d welcome a government shutdown if Democrats didn’t accept his proposals.
Trump himself tweeted that the agreement “is so important for our great Military,” and he urged both Republicans and Democrats to support it.
But the plan faced criticism from some in his own party.
Combined with the party’s December tax cut bill, the burst in military and other spending would put the GOP-controlled government on track for the first $1 trillion-plus deficits since President Barack Obama’s first term. That’s when Congress passed massive stimulus legislation to try to stabilize a down-spiraling economy.
“It’s too much,” said Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., a fiscal hawk.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., however, backed the agreement and was hoping to cobble together a coalition of moderate Democrats and Republicans to push it through.
Despite the 77-year-old Pelosi’s strange public talkathon, she was not pressuring the party’s rank-and-file to oppose the measure, Democrats said. The deal contains far more money demanded by Democrats than had seemed possible only weeks ago, including $90 billion in disaster aid for Florida and Texas.
The 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 troubled health care system for veterans.
The core of the agreement would shatter tight “caps” on defense and domestic programs funded by Congress each year. They are a hangover from a failed 2011 budget agreement and have led to military readiness problems and caused hardship at domestic agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the IRS.
The agreement would give the Pentagon an $80 billion increase for the current budget year for core defense programs, a 14 percent increase over current limits and $26 billion more than Trump’s budget request. Nondefense programs would receive about $60 billion over current levels. Those figures would be slightly increased for the 2019 budget year beginning Oct. 1.
“For the first time in years, our armed forces will have more of the resources they need to keep America safe,” said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “It will help us serve the veterans who have bravely served us. And it will ensure funding for important efforts such as disaster relief, infrastructure and building on our work to fight opioid abuse and drug addiction.”
The $90 billion in disaster aid would bring the total appropriated in the wake of last year’s hurricane season to almost $140 billion.
The agreement would increase the government’s borrowing cap to prevent a first-ever default on U.S. obligations that looms in just a few weeks. The debt limit would be suspended through March of 2019, Sanders said, putting the next vote on it safely past this year’s midterm elections.
McConnell officially unveiled the 652-page measure late Wednesday. It contained previously unmentioned extensions of tax provisions, an array of fee renewals to partly defray the measure’s cost, and almost 400 pages worth of health provisions.
The Associated Press contributed to this article