Trump Loses Big in $1.3 Trillion Spending Bill

The U.S. House of Representatives plans to vote on a $1.3 trillion bipartisan spending bill today after unveiling it to the public on Wednesday night.  Congress must pass the bill this week to avoid shutting down the U.S. government.  The massive spending bill is 2,232 pages long.

The biggest news coming out of the bill’s negotiations is that President Donald Trump walked away a loser.  He campaigned on being a great negotiator and deal maker but Congress didn’t give him much of what he asked for.  (This may reflect the fact that Trump’s low popularity ratings give him less clout on Capitol Hill.)

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Here are the provisions of the bill where Trump failed to get what he wanted:

  1. “The Wall”. The bill gives funding of $1.6 billion for additional barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border, but the barriers must be “operationally effective designs” already deployed as of last March. In other words, Trump got no money at all for his  “big, beautiful wall” prototypes that he desperately wants to build. 
  2. Religion. The  Johnson Amendment will continue, despite Trump and GOP lawmakers wanting to repeal it.  This law prohibits tax-exempt churches from participating directly in political activity. 
  3. Infrastructure.  Several transportation projects are funded in the bill which Democrats had asked for but which Trump opposed.  The biggest of these is known as the Gateway Project in the New York metro area.  Trump wanted to kill it to punish Senator Chuck Schumer of New York and other Democrats who have opposed his agenda.  Under the bill the project is eligible for as much as $541 million in funding this fiscal year.
  4. Healthcare.  Democrats killed a health-care amendment sought by Trump and other Republicans, known as the Collins-Alexander compromise.  The provision called for expanding the existing prohibition on federal funding for abortions. It also would have allowed states to establish high-risk pools to help cover costly insurance claims while restoring certain payments to insurers under the Affordable Care Act. Trump supported the Collins-Alexander language.
  5. Internal Revenue Service: Despite the Trump’s attempt cut the IRS budget, the bill increases it to $11.431 billion which is $456 million more than Trump requested.  
  6. Taxes. Democrats got a 12.5 percent increase in annual allocations for a low-income housing tax credit for four years which Trump opposed.
  7. Immigration Enforcement.  Over Trump’s objections, Democrats were successful in getting into the bill strict limitations on hiring new ICE interior enforcement agents.  The bill also limits the number of undocumented immigrants that ICE can detain. Under the bill, ICE can have no more than 40,354 immigrants in detention.
  8. Election security: The bill adds $380 million to the federal Election Assistance Commission which will allow this agency to help states improve election technology and election security.  Also, the bill gives the FBI $300 million to combat Russian hacking.   (Trump definitely didn’t want this.)
  9. Gun Laws. Democrats won two small victories:
    1. Improving the National Instant Criminal Background Check System that is used to screen U.S. gun buyers.
    2. Clarification that the Centers for Disease Control is allowed to do research into gun violence.

Another win for Democrats in the bill is that funding was increased to fight the opioid epidemic. They have authorized $4.65 billion which is a $3 billion increase over 2017.  This money is to help state and local governments with prevention and treatment of opioid addiction.

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The massive bill was approved at 8:00 pm Wednesday night, which gives Congress very little time to get it finalized and approved by both chambers.  If they don’t, then the government could still shut down at midnight on Friday.

Congress is currently operating under its fifth continuing resolution (CR), and Republican leaders especially want to avoid looking bad by having to pass a sixth CR instead of an actual spending bill.  So they are highly motivated to get this bill passed and signed by the president, but things could still go wrong.  In today’s Washington environment, anything can happen, and usually does.