A high-profile conflict over border wall spending — the issue that sparked a record 35-day partial government shutdown a year ago — was resolved with a retreat to the status quo: Funding remains unchanged from 2019 levels at $1.375 billion, short of the $8.6 billion President Trump requested from Congress.
The Trump administration, however, has moved to transfer funds from other accounts, though the bill does not replenish the accounts it drew from earlier this year. Funding for immigration enforcement agencies also remains unchanged from 2019 levels.
Last week, a federal judge in Texas placed an immediate nationwide injunction blocking Trump from using military construction accounts to fund the wall, which could halt constructions in the short term.
The continuation of any border-wall funding is a blow to Democrats, who pushed to halt construction and block Trump from diverting funds appropriated for other projects. Trump repeatedly promised during the 2016 campaign that Mexico — not U.S. taxpayers — would pay for the wall.
But Democrats touted significant wins elsewhere in the bill — including $25 million in funding for federal gun violence research and $425 million in election security grants, as well as a $208 million boost in funding for the Environmental Protection Agency.
Also riding along on the spending legislation is a bill raising the national age for tobacco sales to 21, a reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, and a permanent repeal of several Affordable Care Act taxes that have faced bipartisan opposition and have been repeatedly delayed since the act’s 2010 passage.
The federal funding for gun violence research is the first in more than 20 years. The 2019 spending agreement clarified a long-standing provision that had been interpreted to prevent funding for that research, but it did not actually provide any funding.
Other Democratic priorities included in the bill are a 3.1 percent pay raise for civilian federal employees, $7.6 billion in funding for the 2020 Census and record funding for education programs including Head Start.
Approval of the pay raise, which would be the largest since 2009, ends a year of back and forth over a boost for some 2.1 million executive branch workers. Trump initially recommended no hike, but then in late summer backed a 2.6 percent increase to be paid across the board.
“Federal employees have many allies in Congress and we commend all of them for their persistence in getting House and Senate negotiators to include the average 3.1 percent raise in their final compromise spending agreement,” National Treasury Employees Union President Tony Reardon said in a statement.
Republicans highlighted a $22 billion increase in Pentagon funding, which Democrats agreed to over the summer as part of a two-year, $2.7 trillion budget accord that also suspended the federal debt cap for the remainder of Trump’s first term.
The new deal fills in the details of agency-by-agency, account-by-account funding pursuant to that broader deal.
Other GOP wins included funding to advance a Republican-supported Veterans Affairs program aimed at privatizing some VA health care delivery, as well as the preservation of several policy restrictions related to abortion and gun rights.
The bill, for instance, does not contain Democratic language overturning the Trump administration’s move to bar organizations that receive federal family planning grants from referring patients for abortions. It also leaves out increased funding of foreign family planning programs that Republicans have argued encourages abortions.
The release of the bill keeps the House on track for a head-spinning week of action, with the spending deal expected to come to a vote Tuesday, followed by a vote impeaching Trump on Wednesday and a Thursday vote on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement.
Trump has yet to send a clear signal of support for the spending deal, though Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has played a personal role in shepherding the deal to the finish, meeting with congressional leaders twice last week. Trump, however, initially rejected a tentative 2019 spending deal negotiated on Capitol Hill a year ago, plunging the federal government into the record shutdown.
Eric Yoder contributed to this report.