In what turned out to be a major bipartisan effort from a fractured Congress, the House of Representatives Friday morning approved a comprehensive, but expensive, spending bill that will keep the government running for the next two years.
Speaker of House Paul Ryan gaveled the 240-186 vote to a close shortly after 5:30 a.m. and sent the bill to President Donald Trump, who signed it to end a short, but edgy, government shutdown — the second in three weeks.
This latest shutdown came at the hands of Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul with a one-man protest that employed the arcane rules of the Senate to stage delay the vote past midnight and force certain agencies of the government to cease operations.
Paul’s stunt came from one of the extreme factions that have stymied previous attempts at bipartisan legislative actions by Congress in recent years.
The Senate approved the measure shortly after midnight in a 71-28 and marked the first strong bipartisan vote on major legislation in several years from a sharply spit Senate.
The expensive budget delivers $500 billion to the nation’s military operations, funds domestic priorities, speeds up disaster relief to hurricane victims and lifts the federal borrowing limit for a year.
Military spending is up 10 percent as is domestic allocations. Federal health care funding increases and stopped planned cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. At least $7 billion goes to community health centers and gives the Veterans Affairs an extra $2 billion to care to veterans.
“You get some things you like; you give the other party things they like,” Ryan said. “That’s what bipartisan compromise is all about.”
The bill also adds billions to the federal government’s deficit.
Congress must still approve direct appropriations to government agencies by March 23.
Congress must still deal with immigration issues, including what should be done with the large contingent of undocumented aliens currently allowed to live and work in the United States after they were allowed into the country as children and many are now college graduates seeking to build careers.
Those immigrants, called “dreamers,” just part of the thorny immigration situation. Still undetermined by Congress is Trump’s plans for a wall to stretch the length of the border between America and Mexico.
With approval of a new budget, Republicans who control Congress have abandoned any pretense of reducing the cost of government. With deficits increasing to trillion dollar levels, the challenge now will be how to fund the costs on the heels of the tax cut passed just before the end of the year.
Or will Congress follow through on threats to make massive cuts to social programs like Medicare and Medicaid.
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