U.S. Congress expected to vote on budget to avert government shutdown

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The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are expected to vote on a proposed budget deal on Thursday that would avert another government shutdown, but that has angered fiscal conservatives who complain it would lead to a $1-trillion deficit.

The plan to keep the government operating and increase spending over the next two years faces resistance from the right wing of the Republican Party that mainly wants to shrink government. At the same time, many liberals want to withhold their support as leverage to win concessions on immigration policy.

Senate leaders reached a rare bipartisan deal Wednesday to raise spending on military and domestic programs by almost $300 billion over the next two years.

The Senate agreement would allow for $165 billion in extra defence spending and $131 billion more for non-military programs, including health, infrastructure, disaster relief and efforts to tackle an opioid crisis in the country.

‘Not compassionate to bankrupt America’

It would also stave off a government shutdown before a midnight Thursday night deadline for a new short-term spending bill, and also extend the federal government’s debt ceiling until March 2019. That would put off for more than a year the risk of a debt default by the United States. Failure to agree on spending led to a partial three-day shutdown of government agencies last month.

The agreement, backed by President Donald Trump and House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, disappointed conservative House Republicans and outside groups. Republicans control the White House and both chambers of Congress.

USA-CONGRESS/SHUTDOWN

House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan backs the agreement. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

Ryan said Thursday he believed there would be enough votes in the House to pass the budget.

“I think we will,” Ryan told radio host Hugh Hewitt. “I feel good. Part of it depends on the Democrats. This is a bipartisan bill. It’s going to need bipartisan support. We are going to deliver our share of support. I feel very good about Republicans. Our members who are focused on the military are very happy where we landed on that.”

But Warren Davidson, a Republican representative, was less enthusiastic.

“It’s not like Republicans aren’t concerned about disaster relief, or Republicans aren’t concerned about funding community health centres or dealing with the opioid crisis,” he said.

“But when you add them all up, it adds to an awful lot of spending… It’s not compassionate to bankrupt America.”

Don’t want the ‘perfect’ to get in the way

Opposition also came from liberal Democrats, who opposed the deal because it does not include an agreement to protect from deportation hundreds of thousands of so-called Dreamers, the name given to young people brought illegally to the United States as children.

A number of lawmakers who supported the bill acknowledged the deal was not perfect. “It’s not pretty,” Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger said on CNN.

Democratic Senator Jon Tester said he hoped House Democrats would back the measure.

“We don’t want the perfect to get in the road of the good,” he told the cable network.

White House adviser Kellyanne Conway told Fox News the agreement provides long-term certainty in the budget and funding for Trump priorities including infrastructure and military funding.

Dreamers measures coming

Meanwhile, Ryan has vowed that once Congress reaches a budget deal, it will then take up the plight of Dreamers who face deportation.

Top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi of California, herself a key architect of the budget plan, announced her opposition Wednesday morning and mounted a remarkable daylong speech on the House floor, trying to force Republican leaders in the House to promise a later vote on legislation to protect the younger immigrants.

Ryan called Pelosi’s marathon speech “pretty darn impressive.”

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