Lawmakers reached an agreement late Sunday on a broad spending package to fund the federal government through the end of the fiscal year in September, ending weeks of uncertainty. The House and Senate are expected to vote on the package early this week. The bipartisan agreement includes $12.5 billion in new military spending and $1.5 billion more for border security, a major priority for Republican leaders in Congress.
So, what’s in the agreement? We’ve sifted through the legislation, consulted supporting documents from Democratic and Republican aides, and called out some of the more notable and controversial elements below.
The Transportation Security Administration would get $331 million in additional money to hire new officers and canine teams to speed up the screening process at airports and seaports.
And air travelers rejoice: Congress decided against enacting a plan that would require $880 million in passenger fee increases.
The nation’s passenger rail service, a quasi-government organization, gets $1.5 billion, a $105 million increase from the last budget year.
Democrats are claiming a huge victory for the arts. They successfully blocked Trump’s request to cut funding to the National Endowments of the Arts and Humanities. Instead both agencies would see a funding increase of $2 million under this spending bill, bringing each budget to $150 million for fiscal 2017.
Trump didn’t get the wall money he wanted but Republicans did get $1.5 billion to spend on repairs to existing border fencing and new technology, such as drones and sensors to help agents keep an eye on parts of the border not protected by barriers.
BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT:
Gone are requests for fee increases for ranchers grazing on federal land and plans for increased oil and gas inspection fees. The BLM got $1.2 billion in the spending bill, an increase of $15 million over last year, including $9 million for the hotly-debated sage grouse conservation project and federal land preservation.
Democrats say they used the spending bill to stave off attempts to end federal reporting of political contributions.
But there’s a ban on requiring government contracting firms to disclose political campaign contributions as a requirement for bidding for government work – ending an Obama-era push to do so.
And the bill bars the Securities and Exchange Commission from requiring the disclosure of political contributions, contributions to tax-exempt organizations or dues paid to trade associations – a loss for groups pushing for more disclosures of campaign contributions.
The spending bill includes a modest $22 million increase for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and fully funds the Public Health Preparedness and Response programs, which are in charge of preparing for a bioterrorism attack or pandemic outbreak.
One of the rare bipartisan wins in this bill is a permanent extension of health-care coverage for coal miners. The measure was a major priority for coal-state lawmakers, including Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
COLLEGE TUITION GRANTS:
Pell Grants for college tuition would get a boost to help cover a student’s full year of college. The maximum award would be increased to $5,935, up from $5,775.
Headed to the island nation? Bring back as many cigars you’d like. Negotiators declined to include language barring Americans from bringing back merchandise from Cuba – an attempt to roll back the Obama administration’s renewal of diplomatic and trade relations with the communist country. The bill also doesn’t include language barring air travel to Cuba, certain educational trips or barring American businesses from doing work with entities owned by Cuban officials or their families.
CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION:
Several agencies related to border security would get a boost for the remainder of fiscal 2017. CBP is slated to see a $137 million increase over last year’s funding level, bringing them to $11.4 billion. The money includes the full $772 million Trump requested for technology and repairs to existing infrastructure at the Southern border with Mexico.
The EPA program that helps communities clean up the water quality in their drinking supply is slated to remain fully funded at the previous year’s level. The agency was responsible for sending $100 million to help Flint, Michigan, restore their drinking supply last year.
The Pentagon also gets $57 million for water quality testing projects at military bases.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:
The nation’s capital gets $756 million from the federal government – a $26 million increase from last year, but $7 million less than what the Obama administration had requested. The bill includes more money for security operations; $45 million for District school improvements; and the bill reauthorizes a scholarship program that helps low-income students attend private schools in the city.
The bill also bars federal funding from being used for abortion services or “to further marijuana legislation.” It also bars federal money from being used to fund a citywide needle exchange program.
This is one of the few departments to see their budget trimmed under the new spending bill. The $68 billion budget is $1.2 billion lower than the spending level enacted in 2016 and $2.3 billion lower than former president Barack Obama proposed for this year. However, student academic support and special education both got modest boosts under the spending bill.
There’s no change in spending to secure U.S. diplomatic outposts. Overall embassy security programs will cost $2.357 billion.
The spending agreement requires FDA review of “e-cigarettes, little cigars, cigarillos, hookah” and all cigar products. Lawmakers from tobacco-producing states had been pushing to exempt thousands of e-cigarette flavors from federal review, according to congressional aides.
ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY:
So much for Trump’s pledge to make deep cuts to the EPA: The spending bill would maintain nearly 99 percent of the agency’s total budget. Still, Republicans are celebrating that the $8.06 billion EPA budget will force the agency to maintain low staffing levels. The spending bill also bans the EPA from cutting agricultural exemptions under the Clean Water Act and requires an update on plans to address the backlog of mining permits that have yet to be approved.
There’s language in the bill requiring the Office of Management and Budget to detail “the expected costs of Executive Orders and Presidential Memorandums.” President Trump has signed 30 executive orders in the first 100 days of his presidency.
FEDERAL WORKER PAY AND PERKS:
The bill continues to bar federal funding for abortions as part of the federal Employee Health Benefits Program. The bill also authorizes a pay freeze for the vice president and other senior political appointees.
Officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the bill slashes funding by $2.4 billion compared with last year “reflecting declining enrollment,” according to Republicans. Overall, there’s $78.5 billion in required mandatory spending for the program and another $3 billion for the SNAP reserve fund that covers unexpected increases in enrollment.
There’s $13.5 million in spending increases for the Government Accountability Office to continue its investigative and oversight work across the three branches of government.
As with previous spending agreements, the new legislation bars funding to “house, transfer, or release any Guantanamo Bay detainee.”
IMMIGRATION POLICY AND FUNDING:
Trump won only a small boost in funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the main agency in charge of deportations and immigration monitoring. Republicans had hoped to fund a hiring spree for new ICE agents and the addition of tens of thousands of detention beds. Instead the spending bill includes money for 100 new officers and approximately 5,000 more beds.
But a $1.5 billion spending increase for the Justice Department will help pay for “short-term detention space” that Republicans say will help house undocumented immigrants and other federal offenders.
A $20 million increase for the Executive Office of Immigration Review will help pay for 10 more federal immigration judges. But the new funding also requires monthly reports to Congress on “immigration judge performance.”
The nation’s tax enforcement agency gets $11.2 billion – freezing its funding in place. Money has been moved around so that there’s now an additional $290 million to improve customer service programs, including phone call wait times.
One of the most embattled agencies in recent years, the spending bill also includes language barring the use of money to pay bonuses or to rehire former employees unless their conduct and tax compliance is considered. The IRS also cannot use any money to produce “inappropriate videos or conferences” – a response to employee conferences and training videos that earned scrutiny for their cost and content. The IRS cannot audit an organization “based on their ideological beliefs,” but the White House is also barred from ordering the agency to determine an organization’s tax exempt status.
Overall, the department sees a $143 million spending cut, but its key agencies, the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms – all see eight-figure increases. There’s also more money for several of the department’s grant programs, including the Violence Against Women grants, the Byrne Justice Assistance Grants, and $22.5 million more to pay for police armored vests.
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS:
Its massive archive would get a $32 million funding boost, primarily to help pay for upgrades to data and computer support and updates to the copyright office.
The spending bill bars the Justice Department from using any money to prevent local governments from “from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.” This applies to states and the District of Columbia.
The Washington area’s bus and subway system gets $150 million – equal to the amount it’s already receiving.
The National Park Service would be fully funded, including a modest bump of $81 million for park maintenance and projects related to the agency’s centennial celebration.
Here’s what the Pentagon will be able to spend: $21.2 billion to procure 13 Navy ships, including three DDG-51 guided missile destroyers and three Littoral Combat Ship. There’s also $8.2 billion for 74 F-35 aircraft; $1.1 billion for 14 F/A-18E/F Super Hornet aircraft; $1.2 billion for 62 UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters; $774 million for 52 remanufactured AH-64 Apache helicopters; $262 million for seven new Apaches; $72 million to spend on 10 more helicopters; $702 million for 145 Patriot MSE missiles; $275 million for 20 MQ-1 Gray Eagle unmanned aerial vehicles; $187 million for 28 Lakota light utility helicopters; $1.8 billion for 11 P-8A Poseidon aircraft; $2.6 billion for 15 KC-46 air tankers; and $1.3 billion for 17 C/HC/KC/MC-130J aircraft.
MILITARY PAY AND PERKS:
There’s a 2.1 percent pay raise for the troops. The new agreement does not make the proposed cuts in troop strength proposed by the Obama administration.
The Defense Health Program gets $312 million to continue its cancer research, $125 million for traumatic brain injury and psychological health research and $296 million for sexual assault prevention and response programs – all above the Trump administration’s budget requests for the programs.
The space agency’s $19.7 billion is $368 million more than last year. That new money helps increase funding for the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and the Space Launch System and the Europa and Mars missions.
No cuts here. The bill would provide a $2 billion increase for NIH, bringing the agency’s budget to $34 billion this year. The funding is to be used, in part, for research into Alzheimer’s disease, antibiotic resistance, brain studies and the development of new treatments and cures.
A big spending increase is seen as one of the biggest bipartisan victories in the bill. There’s $103 million specifically for opioid addiction reduction in addition to a $130.5 million increase for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration. It includes $30 million more for the Mental Health Block Grant which helps states fund mental health programs for low income people.
Democrats successfully blocked a GOP request to bar Planned Parenthood from receiving any federal funding. The women’s health group will continue to have access to that money through the end of the fiscal year in September. Federal money accounts for about 40 percent of Planned Parenthood’s overall budget, with most of that money reimbursing the organization for the treatment of patients on Medicaid.
The bill prohibits the nation’s mail delivery system from consolidating or closing “small rural and other small post offices.”
The island commonwealth is expected to fall short this year on reimbursements to Medicaid. The spending bill includes $295 million to help fill the gap.
Elmo and Peter Sagal, breathe easy: Congress didn’t make any cuts to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the agency that helps fund programming on NPR and PBS.
SCHOOL LUNCH PROGRAM:
The new spending agreement ends a program championed by the former first lady to combat childhood obesity that forced changes in school lunches served to about 31 million children. Republicans say the legislation “stops an Obama-era school meal regulation” and that doing so provides “flexibility for whole grains and milk and preventing changes to sodium standards that have not been fully scientifically vetted.”
The changes caused schools to begin serving more milk, whole grain-rich foods, and a variety of fruits and vegetables, plus limit the amounts of calories, trans-fats and salt that kids get in cafeterias. But a powerful school lunch industry group withdrew its support for the program, saying the new standards were expensive and unpopular with students.
Democrats noted that the bill allows school districts to continue the Obama-era regulations if they choose to do so. The bill also bars the use of poultry from China in USDA-backed school lunch programs.
SECURITY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP:
The spending bill includes $61 million in money to help pay back local law enforcement agencies for protecting Trump in the six months since he was elected. Any agency that provided protection to the president can apply for the reimbursement, but the majority of the funds are expected to be used by officials that protect Trump Tower in New York and the president’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla.
Lawmakers also added $131 million for the U.S. Secret Service, to help keep up with increased deployments to help protect the president’s extended family.
The quasi-government agency that runs the museums along the Mall in Washington would get a small $23 million increase.
The bill includes at least two more years of funding to dole out 2,500 special immigrant visas for Afghans who were employed by ISAF or the U.S. government in Afghanistan since military operations began there in 2001.
Lawmakers from Western states secured $407 million in emergency funding to help fight wildfires this year.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Kelsey Snell, Ed O’Keefe