The House on Thursday passed a sweeping $1.3 trillion spending bill that makes good on President Donald Trump’s promises to increase military funding while blocking most of his proposed cuts to domestic programs and placing obstacles to his immigration agenda.
The 2,232-page bill, which was released just before 8 p.m. Wednesday, would keep government agencies operating through September. Congressional leaders muscled the bill through the chamber, tossing aside rules to ensure careful deliberation of legislation to meet a Friday night government shutdown deadline.
The bill includes dozens of miscellaneous provisions, ranging from crucial fixes to the recent GOP tax bill to a measure on employee tips to language codifying that minor-league baseball players are exempt from federal labor laws. The spending bill is widely expected to be the last major legislation that Congress will pass before the November midterm elections, which has increased pressure to jam the bill full of odds and ends.
The bill passed on a 256-167 vote after leaders of both parties hailed the compromise. At the White House, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said Trump would sign the bill.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said it fulfilled Trump’s governing agenda, including by increasing military spending and funding a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“This bill starts construction on the wall,” he told reporters. “It funds our war on opioids. It invests in infrastructure. It funds school safety and mental health. But what this bill is ultimately about, what we’ve fought for for so long, is finally giving our military the tools and the resources it needs to do the job.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called the bill “a tremendous victory for the American people,” one that keeps domestic agencies robustly funded while turning away Trump’s push for more border wall and immigration enforcement money.
“If you want to think you’re getting a wall, just think it and sign the bill,” she said.
But there were plenty of grumbles in all corners of Capitol Hill about the rapid process that has left lawmakers and aides poring through text to see exactly what the bill will do. House GOP leaders waived their own rules requiring any bill coming to the floor to be posted for at least three days, and none of the more than a dozen lawmakers surveyed Thursday said they had read the entire bill.
“There’s no way humanly possible to read 2,232 pages,” said Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., who is opposed to the bill. “Sometimes they jam you, but they pretend to give you three days to read it. All the veneer is off now.”
Even Democrats who planned to support the compromise railed about the speed of the bill’s consideration.
“No matter what you think about the bill, this process is something we have to stand up and say is unacceptable,” Rep. Jim McGovern, R-Mass., said on the House floor.
House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, acknowledged the circumstances were not ideal.
“There was a good, hard work put into this, and the answer is we are going to move forward and take care of funding our military properly and the rest of the government,” he said. “I, like you, see the frailties in what we do, and they’re enormous and they’re gaping holes, but we had to do what we had to do.”
Besides the looming deadline, one consideration prompting the quick vote, congressional aides said, was the Friday funeral for the late Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y. Dozens of members are planning to fly to Rochester, New York, for the service.
Other lawmakers are set to leave on official delegations abroad as soon as Friday, aides said, taking advantage of the two-week congressional break for Easter and Passover.
Ahead of the vote,House leaders were confident that the compromise would gain enough bipartisan support to get the bill through the chamber on Thursday – much as a precursor budget agreement generated brief fury only to pass on a comfortable bipartisan vote in the pre-dawn hours.
“The members know what is at stake,” House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., said late Wednesday after leaving House meetings during which his whip team began counting votes for the bill. “We have to pay our troops and support our president.”
Attention now turns to the Senate, where unanimous consent from all members would be needed to waive procedural rules and set up votes before the Friday midnight deadline.
That means any one senator could delay the proceedings and force a brief shutdown, much as Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., did in February, when he held up consideration of the previous budget bill.
Paul said Wednesday that he had not decided how he would handle the new bill, telling reporters that he would wait to read it first. But he made clear that he was unlikely to be pleased by its contents.
“I think it is safe to say that there are many voices in the Senate, including many Republicans, who are not real happy about having a thousand-page bill crammed down our throat at the last minute without time to read it,” he said. “It’s a really terrible, rotten, no-good way to run your government.”
(c) 2018, The Washington Post · Mike DeBonis, Erica Werner