President Trump on Friday signed a package of spending bills funding veterans, military construction and Energy Department programs for 2019, taking a first step toward keeping the federal government running when the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
The three-bill legislative package ensures programs for veterans, military construction projects, energy and water spending and legislative branch functions will be funded through 2019, regardless of what happens with the rest of the federal budget.
Trump’s signature does not end chances of a partial government shutdown. Averting that would require Trump to sign a short-term spending bill awaiting action in the House that would punt a fight over his border wall into December, past the midterm elections.
It remains uncertain whether Trump will sign that measure, since he demanded more border wall money and has publicly suggested it might be a good idea to force a shutdown to get it. Trump during his presidential campaign repeatedly promised the wall would be paid for by Mexico.
“Today, the President signed legislation that makes critical investments in our military, our veterans, and our Nation’s infrastructure,” said Mick Mulvaney, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. “This signals to our veterans, men and women in uniform and their families that the nation stands behind them as they risk everything to protect our freedoms as Americans.”
The legislation comprises three of the 12 annual spending bills Congress must pass to keep the federal government running. Two others — critical measures to boost funding for the Pentagon and for health, education and labor programs — have been attached to the short-term spending bill that has already passed the Senate and is expected to pass the House next week.
By attaching Pentagon spending to a short-term measure keeping the entire government running through Dec. 7, GOP leaders hope to increase odds Trump will sign the package and steer clear of a shutdown.
Friday’s package includes $86.5 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs, the largest dollar amount ever for VA. It contains $1 million for the Capitol Police for lawmaker security at events away from the Capitol, following last year’s shooting at a congressional baseball practice.
It also contains $174,000 for a death gratuity payment to the family of former Arizona Republican Senator John McCain; a new fund allowing lawmakers to pay congressional interns, who have long been unpaid; and a one-year funding fix for the new VA Mission Act signed by Trump, which consolidates programs allowing veterans to receive private care coordinated by VA. This follows a fight over how to pay for the new law; the outcome was a short-term solution that will require lawmakers to revisit the issue in a year.