US Congress approves $1.3tr spending bill, sends to Trump

Published: March 23, 2018 12:23:06 | Updated: March 24, 2018 11:13:03


The US Congress has voted to approve a $1.3-trillion government funding bill with large increases in military spending, sending it to President Donald Trump, who was expected to sign it into law.

The bill will avert a threatened government shutdown and keep federal agencies funded until Sept. 30, ending for constant budget squabbles and letting lawmakers focus on getting reelected in November.

The Senate voted 65-32 for the spending bill early Friday, several hours after the House of Representatives passed it 256-167 on Thursday.

The votes capped a long struggle by the Congress, which was supposed to have approved the government funding by Oct. 1,2017.

Since last October, several stop-gap spending bills have kept the government open, except for two brief shutdowns earlier this year when Congress deadlocked and funding expired, reports Reuters.

Despite Republican leaders urging passage of the bill, some of them voted no.

The Republican party controls both chambers of Congress and the White House, but the party has struggled to approve budget legislation since taking power in January 2017.

Rand Paul, Republican Senator, spent part of Thursday on social network Twitter criticizing what he said was unnecessary spending in the sprawling bill.

“Shame, shame.  A pox on both Houses - and parties. Here’s the 2,232 page, $1.3 trillion, budget-busting Omnibus spending bill,” Paul declared in one message.

He decried a “monstrous bill” teeming with money for decades-old programs. His last-minute objections played a key role in delaying the Senate’s vote until the dead of night.

On Thursday, Representative Mark Meadows, who heads the far-right Freedom Caucus in the House of Representatives, said, “This omnibus doesn’t just forget the promises we made to voters - it flatly rejects them.”

He added, “This is not the limited government conservatism our voters demand.”

Not all of the opposition, however, was over fiscal policy.

Before he would let the voting proceed, Republican Senator James Risch insisted on a promise that a wilderness area in his home state of Idaho would not be named after the late former Governor Cecil Andrus, a Democrat.

The legislation has provisions that appeal to conservatives, however, with its $80-billion increase this year to the military budget and more border security funding.

But significantly higher non-defence spending put conservatives on edge. In the House, 90 of the chamber’s 238 Republicans revolted against the measure.

Coupled with recent tax cuts, the government funding bill is projected to lead to budget deficits of more than $800 billion for this year. Conservatives warned it could create problems for Republicans running for re-election in November.

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