May 26, 2017
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U.S. Spending Deal Shows Democrats Still Wield Clout in Congress

By Richard Cowan


WASHINGTON - Republicans control the U.S. Congress and the White House but a bipartisan deal on nearly $1.2 trillion in federal spending that would avert a government shutdown had the fingerprints of Democrats all over it.

U.S. President Donald Trump told Bloomberg news in an interview on Monday he was "very happy" with the deal announced late on Sunday. But Democrats claimed victory on issue after issue, and suggested the path for Congress going forward was to navigate around Trump in a bipartisan manner if he refuses to constructively engage with lawmakers.

Trump scored up to $15 billion in additional funding for a military buildup, though that sum was about half of what he sought in deal reached by Republican and Democratic congressional negotiators.

Money for a U.S.-Mexico border wall Trump has said is needed to stem the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs was nowhere to be found in the agreement due to solid Democratic opposition and tepid support from Trump's fellow Republicans in Congress.

"I think Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate were closer to one another than we were to the president on so many of the different issues," Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer told reporters.

The deal requires passage in Congress in order to avert a partial federal government closure beginning on Saturday and keep the government funded through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.

Schumer and Senator Patrick Leahy, the senior Appropriations Committee Democrat, said they were bolstered in negotiations by the fact that several Republican senators opposed funding for Trump's planned border wall as well as his call for deep domestic spending cuts. They said that the White House never tried to engage with Democrats in the process.

Several of Trump's policy priorities could come before Congress this year, including another shot at dismantling Obamacare after a failure in March, a tax overhaul plan and infrastructure spending. Congress also must deal with raising the nation's debt ceiling and funding for the next fiscal year.

The agreement also preserved funding for healthcare provider Planned Parenthood, which has drawn Republican ire because it performs abortions, for the Obamacare law and for an array of environmental and other domestic programs Trump wanted to slash.

"President Trump sent a proposal to Congress to cut this bill's domestic investments by $18 billion, but I am very glad that this request was ignored," said Senator Patty Murray, a senior Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

A DOWNPAYMENT

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said because the legislation needs to win a super-majority of 60 votes in the 100-seat Senate that cannot be achieved without Democratic support, "we couldn't have our entire way" on the deal.

Spicer said the "president's priorities will be reflected much more" in spending yet to be worked out for the 2018 fiscal year that begins on Oct. 1. He said Trump was pleased to see the increase in military spending, a "downpayment" on border security and money for scholarships to help low-income children in Washington attend private schools.

The fiscal 2017 funds, which should have been locked into place seven months ago, would pay for federal programs from airport and border security operations to soldiers' pay, medical research, foreign aid, space exploration and education.

Republican Representative Jim Jordan, chairman of the House Freedom Caucus bloc of hardline conservative lawmakers, said he and other conservatives likely would not back the measure because it does not fulfill their promises to voters.

The Pentagon would win a $12.5 billion increase in defense spending for the fiscal year that ends on Sept. 30, with the possibility of an additional $2.5 billion contingent on Trump delivering a plan to Congress for defeating Islamic State.

Congressional negotiators settled on $1.5 billion more for border security, including money for new technology and repairing existing infrastructure.

Trump, in an interview with CBS broadcast on Monday, said a separate infrastructure plan would come within three weeks.

The Trump administration earlier backed away from a threat to end federal subsidies for low-income people to receive health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, the program popularly known as Obamacare which Trump had pledged to repeal.

The House is likely to vote first on the package, probably early in the week, and send the measure to the Senate for approval before Friday's midnight deadline. Spicer said he expected Trump would sign it.


(Reuters)

(Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu, Susan Heavey and Tim Ahmann; Writing by Will Dunham; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Meredith Mazzilli)

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