Congressional leaders reached a $1.3 trillion spending deal Wednesday to keep government agencies operating through September, unveiling legislation that would make good on President Trump’s promises to increase military funding while blocking much of his immigration agenda. . . . In the broadest strokes, the bill gives Republicans a major win by delivering a $78 billion increase in military spending over 2017 levels, while Democrats won a $52 billion increase for domestic programs. In many instances large spending increases on the domestic side ignored budget cuts proposed by the Trump administration, allowing lawmakers of both parties to trumpet victories on programs from opioid prevention to clean-up of the Great Lakes.
Yes, there is $1.57 billion for all of 90 miles of a “border wall system,” according to a summary put out by the speaker’s office. Not $25 billion. Not really even a wall. And that’s not really 90 more miles of new border security. “Most of the funding, officials said, can be used only for repairs or for ‘secondary’ barriers along border stretches where there is already a wall,” The Post reports. “The rest can be used for 33 miles of new barriers, but there are restrictions on the type: Only levees or existing ‘bollard’ fencing can be built, rather than the concrete prototypes Trump appears to favor.” Those wall prototypes Trump looked at in California? Apparently that was for show. It’s stunning how little Trump got of what was arguably his top priority.
There are some minor victories for Democrats — rejected cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency, language explicitly allowing federal funds to be spent on research into guns, a minor fix of the existing gun background check system and “$380 million to dole out to states to improve their election-related cybersecurity.”
There were a few bipartisan accomplishments, including funding to fight the opioid epidemic and inclusion of the Taylor Force Act, which limits funding to the Palestinian Authority until it stops supporting jailed terrorists and their families.
However, the bill might be more noteworthy for what it does not include. There is no fix for “dreamers.” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) — who was promised in exchange for her vote on the tax bill (that stripped out the individual mandate) measures to reduce Obamacare premium costs — was once again stiffed. Her proposal to restore cost-sharing reduction subsidies and fund state high-risk pools was left out of the omnibus. (As many observed at the time, she was snookered by Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.) And finally, the must-pass bill contains nothing that would protect special counsel Robert S. Mueller III from being fired.
All in all, there is much more continuity — with the exception of a needed hike in defense spending — than one might have expected from a GOP president and GOP Congress that vowed to “shake things up.” The era of big government and big deficits is here to stay. Thanks to the revenue-hemorrhaging tax bill and the spending hikes, the debt will grow. Trump and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney’s most extreme cuts won’t happen.
Thanks to his willingness to let Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, senior adviser Stephen Miller and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) lead him around by the nose and nix a DACA-for-the-wall deal, Trump will not get the wall he constantly promises to his anti-immigrant base. For someone who has the majorities in both houses of Congress, this negotiation reflects a shocking level of ineptitude on the president’s part. You wonder when he will start “winning.”