Congress rushes to pass a $1.3 trillion spending bill before the government shuts down again

Key Points
  • Congress is rushing to pass a bill to fund the government through Sept. 30.
  • The government will shut down if Congress cannot pass a spending bill by midnight Friday.
  • The plan includes a military funding increase, as well as money for fighting the opioid crisis, border security and infrastructure.
Spending bill negotiations nearly done

Facing another possible government shutdown, Congress rushed on Thursday to vote on a massive $1.3 trillion spending bill only hours after its release.

Congressional leaders unveiled the more than 2,200-page proposal Wednesday night after striking agreement on some major points of contention. Lawmakers will have to pass the legislation by the midnight Friday deadline or see government funding lapse for the third time this year.

The Republican-controlled House aims to approve the bill as early as Thursday, and narrowly cleared a procedural hurdle toward doing so Thursday morning. The vote is expected at roughly between 12:15 p.m. and 12:45 p.m. ET, according to House Majority Whip Steve Scalise's office.

If the House passes the measure, the Senate will still have a tight window to pass the legislation before the deadline, with possible snags looming.

The proposal would boost funding for the military and border security technology, two major Republican priorities. It would also increase funds to fight the opioid epidemic and improve U.S. infrastructure. Other provisions include measures meant to strengthen gun sale background checks and school safety.

Easing Trump's concerns

President Donald Trump, who was hesitant to support the proposal entering Wednesday, now backs the spending bill. He talked Wednesday afternoon with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan, who aimed to ease his concerns.

The White House and Ryan's office said Trump will back the plan. The president had misgivings about the amount of funding for his proposed border wall and the lack of a provision to pull federal money from so-called sanctuary cities, among other issues.

The president appeared to show his support for the bill in a tweet Wednesday night, touting the boost to military and border security funding. He also decried what he called wasting money on "Dem giveaways" in order to secure his desired defense spending. He did not specify which policies he opposed.

Trump tweet: Got $1.6 Billion to start Wall on Southern Border, rest will be forthcoming. Most importantly, got $700 Billion to rebuild our Military, $716 Billion next year...most ever. Had to waste money on Dem giveaways in order to take care of military pay increase and new equipment.

Only part of the $1.6 billion going toward border security will fund border fencing, not a "wall" as Trump proposed. Most of the money will go to surveillance and other technology.

Ryan and other Republicans have promoted the bill as a win for the U.S. military. The Wisconsin Republican appeared Thursday on "Fox & Friends" — a morning show Trump watches and frequently tweets about — to promote the spending plan and potentially shore up final support from Trump.

In the interview, Ryan highlighted Trump's priorities the legislation would boost: the military, border security and fighting the opioid crisis. He also stressed that the plan would not directly fund a rail tunnel connecting New York and New Jersey that the president opposed.

He called it "the Trump-[Defense Secretary] Jim Mattis budget for the military."

Democrats claim victory, too

Democrats touted policy victories of their own in the plan, despite concessions they made to the GOP.

"Every bill takes compromise, and there was plenty here, but at the end of the day we Democrats feel very good because so many of our priorities for the middle class were included," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement. "From opioid funding to rural broadband, and from student loans to child care, this bill puts workers and families first."

The bill faces opposition from the conservative wing of the Republican Party, whose lawmakers object to the spending increases. The hardline conservative House Freedom Caucus plans to vote against the legislation.

"This may be the worst bill I have ever seen in my time in Congress," caucus member Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, told Fox on Thursday morning.

Still, support from most of Republicans and Democrats could overcome the conservative opposition.

Last month, Congress reached a deal to bust through budget caps and increase military and domestic spending by $300 billion over two years. The legislation this week would actually allocate the money to specific programs and agencies.

Disagreements over issues such as immigration, health care and infrastructure slowed the funding talks and left lawmakers scrambling to beat the Friday deadline.

Here are some of the bill's notable provisions:

  • It would boost Department of Defense funding by nearly $80 billion, the largest increase in 15 years, according to lawmakers. That includes a 2.4 percent pay increase for the military.
  • It would put $1.57 billion in new funding toward fencing along the border with Mexico and border security technology such as aircraft and sensors. Trump had sought billions more in funding for a physical barrier on the border after he promised to build a wall as a candidate. He proposed the border money in exchange for legal protections for hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants, but Democrats did not budge.
  • The legislation would allocate billions in new funding toward opioid abuse treatment, prevention and research. Overall, it would put $4 billion toward those efforts.
  • The bill would put more than $10 billion more toward infrastructure projects to improve highways, airports, railroads and bridges. It will also put money toward high-speed broadband development. It would not directly fund a rail tunnel from New Jersey to New York that Trump opposed. But the project would be eligible for funding from programs that are getting a boost in the bill.
  • It would include a provision to strengthen the gun sale background check system, by pushing agencies to better follow existing procedures for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The so-called Fix NICS bill had bipartisan support.
  • The proposal would put more than $2 billion in new money toward mental health and school safety programs.
  • The legislation would adjust an issue from the GOP tax bill passed in December that helped agricultural cooperatives relative to corporate competitors. In return, Democrats secured an expansion of the low-income housing tax credit.
  • The bill would not include measures to shore up Affordable Care Act health insurance marketplaces, as some Republicans and Democrats hoped. It also would not pull funding for so-called sanctuary cities or Planned Parenthood, as some conservatives had hoped.