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US Congress Funds Federal Government Through September

  • Michael Bowman

FILE - The U.S. Capitol is seen in Washington, April 7, 2017.

The U.S. Senate cast aside partisan acrimony Thursday and overwhelmingly passed a trillion-dollar spending bill that keeps the federal government funded through September.

The 79 to 18 vote came one day after the House of Representatives approved the measure, which now awaits President Donald Trump’s signature to become law.

“This represents the first demonstration of Republicans and Democrats in both houses of Congress working with the White House in order to pass an important piece of legislation and keep the government up and running,” said Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas.

FILE - Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 28, 2017.
FILE - Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 28, 2017.

“It [the spending bill] is proof that Washington can work when we work together,” said Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat. “In my view this is a very good bill for the American people.”

The product of weeks of negotiations between congressional leaders and the White House, the bill boosts U.S. military spending and provides increased funding for U.S. border security.

“This funding will help the Department of Homeland Security hire more border patrol agents and customs officials, improve the infrastructure at our ports of entry and checkpoints, and hire more immigration judges to process more immigration cases,” Cornyn said.

To the delight of Democrats, the bill sidesteps numerous promises made by Republicans in general and Trump in particular. There is no money for constructing a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and no provision to punish local governments that refuse to cooperate with federal authorities in identifying and removing undocumented immigrants. The spending bill continues funding for Obamacare as well as Planned Parenthood, a women’s health organization that performs abortions.

“Not only does it preclude funding for an unnecessary and ineffective border wall, it increases investments in programs that the middle class relies on,” Schumer said. “The National Institutes of Health will get an additional $2 billion. Infrastructure programs … will get an increase.”

Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, whose home state of Florida includes Cape Canaveral, praised a boost in funds for NASA.

“We now stand on the precipice of a new golden age of exploration and discovery,” Nelson said. “The can-do little agency, NASA, is now on the way [for a mission] to Mars.”

But the bill’s bipartisan nature rankled hardline conservative Republicans who argued minority Democrats won too many concessions.

FILE - Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, departs the Senate chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 3, 2017.
FILE - Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, departs the Senate chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 3, 2017.

“Last November, the American people voted to give Republicans control of both houses of Congress and the White House,” said Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas in a statement. “We should be funding our priorities, not perpetuating Democrats’ big government programs.”

Taking to Twitter, Trump has praised the spending bill but also said a government shutdown may be necessary at the beginning of the next fiscal year, which begins October 1.

Senators of both parties rejected the president’s thinking.

“We were elected to govern, not to shut down the government,” Cornyn said.

Schumer said that if congressional leaders “work as well on the 2018 budget as we did on the 2017 budget, we will have a product we can be proud of with no worries about any kind of government shutdown.”

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