Politics

Congress Expected to Vote on Bi-Partisan Budget Agreement

Congress is expected to vote this week on a budget agreement that will keep the government funded through September, and that contains very few of the big ticket items the President had requested. The bill would be considered the first piece of bi-partisan legislation to move forward in the Congress since Trump took office.

“This agreement is a good agreement for the American people and takes the threat of a government shutdown off the table,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). “The bill ensures taxpayer dollars aren’t used to fund an ineffective border wall, excludes poison-pill riders, and increases investments in programs that the middle-class relies on, like medical research, education and infrastructure.”

Congress’s plan does not reflect the $18 billion in cuts to domestic programs that Trump had outlined in his March budget blueprint, which included funding slashes on everything from medical research to humanitarian aid to national programs that feed low-income children and the elderly.  Instead of cuts, there will actually be an increase in spending on Medicaid, disaster relief programs, funds for the National Institutes of Health, and more.

Two months ago, Trump had asked to cut the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) budget by 31 percent, which would have brought its funding from $8.1 billion to $5.7 billion a year, eliminating 20 percent of the agency’s workforce and cutting over 50 programs. In Congress’s budget compromise, the EPA’s budget is cut by only 1 percent.

While the bill does include increased funds for defense and homeland security, it also explicitly forbids funds from being appropriated to construct a wall along the southern border with Mexico and does not allow for an increase in the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. Trump got less than half of the $30 billion in military spending he asked for, with an additional $2.5 billion conditional on whether or not he can detail a concrete plan for defeating ISIS.

Last week a District Court judge temporarily blocked Trump’s executive order threatening to pull all federally funded grants and programs from sanctuary cities that did not comply with immigration enforcement, clarifying that that power belonged to Congress. Congress did not include a rider restricting funding to sanctuary cities in this budget.

Despite last week’s attempt by House Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), this budget would allow the government to continue to subsidize the costs of health insurance, which keeps out of pocket expenses low for poor Americans who received coverage under the ACA. There are also no provisions included that aim to defund Planned Parenthood, despite continuous promises by House Republicans to do so.

Overall, this budget plan is considered a major victory for Democrats considering the House, Senate and White House are all controlled by Republicans.

Media Resources: New York Times 4/30/17; Washington Post 5/1/17; Feminist Majority Foundation 3/17/17, 4/26/17