Trump swings behind massive budget plan
Washington — Congressional leaders all but finalized a sweeping $1.3 trillion budget bill Wednesday that substantially boosts military and domestic spending but leaves behind young immigrant “Dreamers,” deprives President Donald Trump some of his border wall money and takes only incremental steps to address gun violence.
As negotiators stumbled toward an end-of-the-week deadline to fund the government or face a federal shutdown, House Speaker Paul Ryan dashed to the White House amid concerns Trump’s support was wavering. The White House later said the president backed the legislation, even as some conservative Republicans balked at the size of the spending increases and the rush to pass the bill.
Talks continued into Wednesday evening, with no final version yet made public.
Leaders still hoped to start voting as soon as Thursday. But a stopgap measure may be needed to ensure federal offices aren’t hit with a partial shutdown at midnight Friday when funding for the government expires.
Negotiators have been working for days – and nights – on details of the bill, which is widely viewed as the last major piece of legislation likely to move through Congress in this election year. Lawmakers in both parties sought to attach their top priorities.
Two of the biggest remaining issues had been border wall funds and a legislative response to gun violence after the clamor for action following recent school shootings, including in Parkland, Florida.
On guns, leaders tentatively agreed to tuck in bipartisan provisions to bolster school safety funds and improve compliance with the criminal background check system for firearm purchases. They were also discussing allowing the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to do research on gun safety, an idea Democrats pushed.
But there was no resolution for Dreamers, the young immigrants who have been living in the United States illegally since childhood, but whose deportation protections are being challenged in court after Trump tried to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.
Democrats temporarily shut down the government earlier this year as they fought for that protection. But the issue only rose to a discussion item when Trump made a late-hour push for a deal in exchange for $25 billion in border wall funds.
Instead, Trump is now poised to win $1.6 billion for barriers along the border, but none of it for the new prototypes he recently visited in California. The money would fund about 33 miles of new construction in the San Diego area and the repair of about 60 miles of existing segments, some that double as levees, along the Rio Grande in Texas.
In one win for immigrant advocates, negotiators rejected Trump’s plans to hire hundreds of new Border Patrol and immigration enforcement agents.
The emerging plan removes a much-debated earmark protecting money for a rail tunnel under the Hudson River. The item was a top priority of Trump’s most powerful Democratic rival, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, but Trump vowed to veto the bill over the earmark. Under the legislation, the project would remain eligible for funding, however, and a Schumer aide said it was likely to win well more than half of the $900 million sought for the project this year.
A major provision of the bill would give Trump a huge budget increase for the military, while Democrats would cement wins on infrastructure and other domestic programs that they failed to get under President Barack Obama.