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Spending bill stalls in U.S. Senate

Conservatives object to measure that pleases many Democrats.

Posted: Mar 22, 2018 8:36 PM
Updated: Mar 23, 2018 6:38 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress was poised to pass a giant $1.3 trillion spending bill that would end the budget battles for now, but not without risking another shutdown as conservatives objected to big outlays on Democratic priorities at a time when Republicans control the House, Senate and White House.

This would be the third federal shutdown this year, an outcome both parties want to avoid. But in crafting a sweeping deal that busts budget caps, they’ve stirred conservative opposition and set the contours for the next funding fight ahead of the midterm election.

The House easily approved the measure Thursday, 256-167, a bipartisan tally that underscored the popularity of the compromise, which funds the government through September. It beefs up military and domestic programs, delivering federal funds to every corner of the country.

But action stalled in the Senate, as conservatives ran the clock in protest. They can’t stop the bill indefinitely. But without agreement, voting would spill into the weekend, past the midnight Friday deadline to fund the government.

“Shame, shame. A pox on both Houses - and parties,” tweeted Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who spent the afternoon tweeting details found in the 2,200-page bill that was released the night before. “No one has read it. Congress is broken.”

The omnibus spending bill was supposed to be an antidote to the stopgap measures Congress has been forced to pass — five in this fiscal year alone — to keep government temporarily running amid partisan fiscal disputes.

Leaders delivered on President Donald Trump’s top priorities of boosting Pentagon coffers and starting work his promised border wall, while compromising with Democrats on funds for road building, child care development, fighting the opioid crisis and more.

But the result has been unimaginable to many Republicans after campaigning on spending restraints and balanced budgets. Along with the recent GOP tax cuts law, the bill that stood a foot tall at some lawmakers’ desks ushers in the return of $1 trillion deficits.

Trump only reluctantly backed the bill he would have to sign, according to Republican lawmakers and aides, who acknowledged the deal involved necessary trade-offs for the Democratic votes that were needed for passage despite their majority lock on Congress.

“Obviously he doesn’t like this process — it’s dangerous to put it up to the 11th hour like this,” said Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., who opposes the bill and speaks regularly to Trump. “The president, and our leadership, and the leadership in the House got together and said, Look, we don’t like what the Democrats are doing, we got to fund the government.”

White House legislative director Marc Short framed it as a compromise. “I can’t sit here and tell you and your viewers that we love everything in the bill,” he said on Fox. “But we think that we got many of our priorities funded.”

Trying to smooth over differences, Republican leaders focused on military increases that were once core to the party’s brand as guardians of national security.

“Vote yes for our military. Vote yes for the safety and the security of this country,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., ahead of voting.

But even that remained a hard sell. In all, 90 Republicans, including many from the conservative House Freedom Caucus, voted against the bill.

It was a sign of the entrenched GOP divisions that have made Ryan’s job governing the majority difficult. They will likely repeat on the next budget battle in fall.

Democrats faced their own divisions, particularly after failing to resolve the stalemate over shielding young Dreamer immigrants from deportation as Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program has left it for the courts to decide.

Instead, Trump won $1.6 billion to begin building and replacing segments of the wall along the border with Mexico. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus opposed the bill.

Also missing from the package was a renewal of federal insurance subsidies to curb premium costs on the Affordable Care Act exchanges. Trump ended some of those payments as part of his effort to scuttle President Barack Obama’s health care law, but Republicans have joined Democrats in trying to revive them.

Bipartisan efforts to restore the subsidies, and provide additional help for insurance carriers, foundered over disagreements on how tight abortion restrictions should be on using the money for private insurance plans. Senate Republicans made a last-ditch effort to tuck them insurance provisions into the bill, but Democrats refused to yield on abortion restrictions.

Still, Democrats were beyond pleased with the outcome. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., chronicled the party’s many gains, and noted they could have just have easily withheld votes Republicans needed to avert another shutdown.

“We chose to use our leverage to help this bill pass,” Pelosi said.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said as the minority party in Congress, “We feel darn good.”

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 58640

Reported Deaths: 1677
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin18641828
Ramsey7233261
Dakota4188104
Anoka3515114
Stearns286420
Washington200944
Nobles17536
Olmsted168823
Scott147918
Mower10942
Rice10138
Blue Earth8745
Wright8475
Carver8162
Clay76840
Sherburne7037
Kandiyohi6871
St. Louis48619
Todd4222
Lyon4213
Freeborn3581
Steele3381
Nicollet32913
Benton3153
Watonwan3010
Winona25416
Crow Wing22514
Beltrami2150
Le Sueur2101
Martin2045
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Cottonwood1750
Becker1501
McLeod1480
Pipestone1479
Polk1453
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Itasca13512
Carlton1320
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Murray1221
Isanti1160
Chippewa1011
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Renville625
Fillmore610
Lincoln540
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Swift521
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Pope460
Roseau460
Houston410
Norman370
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Redwood320
Wilkin323
Hubbard300
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Marshall290
Mahnomen261
Wadena240
Red Lake230
Big Stone220
Lake200
Stevens170
Clearwater150
Traverse100
Lac qui Parle60
Kittson30
Cook20
Lake of the Woods10

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 47424

Reported Deaths: 910
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk10032206
Woodbury369151
Black Hawk308463
Linn227987
Johnson202116
Dallas184635
Buena Vista179112
Scott165514
Dubuque162331
Marshall142525
Pottawattamie128426
Story114114
Wapello87233
Muscatine84048
Webster7727
Crawford7263
Sioux6143
Cerro Gordo59617
Warren5471
Tama54529
Jasper46626
Wright4551
Plymouth4528
Louisa38014
Dickinson3774
Clinton3623
Washington29310
Boone2442
Hamilton2441
Franklin2339
Bremer2037
Clarke1953
Emmet1882
Carroll1851
Shelby1771
Clay1761
Hardin1730
Marion1620
Allamakee1544
Poweshiek1538
Des Moines1522
Jackson1481
Benton1461
Floyd1432
Mahaska13917
Guthrie1315
Cedar1281
Jones1272
Buchanan1231
Hancock1212
Butler1192
Henry1193
Pocahontas1151
Madison1142
Lyon1092
Lee1073
Cherokee1031
Clayton1023
Harrison1020
Humboldt1001
Delaware991
Taylor960
Iowa941
Monona910
Winneshiek911
Mills850
Page850
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Kossuth830
Sac820
Fayette810
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Mitchell780
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Grundy761
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