WASHINGTON -- Congressional negotiators reached a tentative agreement Wednesday night on a $1.3 trillion federal spending bill, releasing it to the public just 52 hours before a government shutdown deadline.
The draft of the "omnibus" appropriations bill runs 2,232 pages and doles out funding for the remainder of fiscal 2018, which ends Sept. 30, for virtually every federal department and agency pursuant to the two-year budget agreement Congress reached in February.
Under that agreement, defense spending generally favored by Republicans is set to jump $80 billion over previously authorized spending levels, while domestic spending favored by Democrats rises by $63 billion. The defense funding includes a 2.4 percent pay raise for military personnel and $144 billion for Pentagon hardware. Civilian federal employees will get a 1.9 percent pay raise.
Other highlights include:
• Border wall: The bill provides $1.6 billion for barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border. Of the total, $251 million is earmarked specifically for "secondary fencing" near San Diego, where fencing is already in place; $445 million is for no more than 25 miles of "levee fencing"; $196 million is for "primary pedestrian fencing" in the Rio Grande Valley; $445 million is for the replacement of existing fencing in that area; and the rest is for planning, design and technology -- not for wall construction.
• Immigration enforcement: The bill bumps up funding for both U.S. Customs and Border Protection and for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement -- delivering increases sought by the Trump administration. But Democrats pushed for, and won, limitations on hiring new ICE interior enforcement agents and on the number of illegal aliens the agency can detain.
• Infrastructure: Numerous transportation programs get funding increases in the bill, but one provides no specific funding for one sought by Senate Minority Leader Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.,: The Gateway program, aimed at improving rail access to and from Manhattan on Amtrak and New Jersey Transit.
• Health care: Left out of the bill was a health-care measure sought by GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee that would have allowed states to establish high-risk pools to help cover costly insurance claims while restoring certain payments to insurers under the Affordable Care Act.
• Background checks: The bill includes the Fix NICS Act, bipartisan legislation aimed at improving the National Instant Criminal Background Check System that is used to screen U.S. gun buyers. It provides for incentives and penalties to encourage federal agencies and states to send records to the federal database. Language in the report accompanying the bill also clarifies that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can conduct research into gun violence.
• Taxes: The bill undoes the so-called grain glitch, a provision in the new GOP tax law that favored farmer-owned cooperatives over traditional agriculture corporations by providing a significantly larger tax benefit for sales to cooperatives.
• Internal Revenue Service: Despite the administration's attempts to slash its budget, lawmakers grant $11.431 billion to the nation's tax collectors, a $196 million year-to-year increase and $456 million more than Trump requested. The figure includes $320 million to implement changes enacted as part of the GOP tax overhaul plan.
• Opioids: The bill increases funding to tackle the opioid epidemic, allocating more than $4.65 billion across agencies to help states and local governments on efforts toward prevention, treatment and law enforcement initiatives. That represents a $3 billion increase over 2017 spending levels.
• Election security: The bill provides $380 million to the federal Election Assistance Commission to make payments to states to improve election security and technology, and the FBI is set to receive $300 million in counterintelligence funding to combat Russian hacking.
• Jury duty: People who serve on a federal jury will see their daily pay rate increase to $50 per day.
• Secret Service: The agency responsible for protecting the president and his family gets $2.007 billion, including $9.9 million for overtime worked without pay in 2017 and $14 million to construct a taller and stronger fence around the White House.
• FBI: The spending bill grants the agency $9.03 billion for salaries and expenses, a $263 million jump over the last fiscal year and $307 million more than the Trump administration requested.
• Apprenticeships: Federal money for apprenticeship programs will increase by $50 million and there's a $75 million increase for career and technical education programs.
• Arts: Federal funding for the arts goes up, despite GOP attempts to slash it. The National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities will see funding climb to $152.8 million each, a $3 million increase over the last fiscal year. Trump proposed eliminating the endowments. The National Gallery of Art gets $165.9 million, a $1.04 million jump in funding. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts will receive $40.5 million, which is $4 million more than the last fiscal year.
• Public broadcasting: Lawmakers agreed not to cut funding for the nation's public television and radio networks. Government funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting will remain at $465 million -- the same level as past years.
Nonbudgetary issues in the spending plan include:
• Foreign policy: the so-called Taylor Force Act. Named after an American who was killed by a Palestinian in 2016, the measure curtails certain economic assistance to the Palestinian Authority until it stops financially supporting convicted terrorists and their families.
• Baseball: The provision could alter rules regarding minimum wages for minor-league players, who began suing the league in recent years for paying them illegally low wages. The version in the bill only exempts players working under a contract that pays minimum wage during the season, not spring training or the offseason -- and it includes no guarantee of overtime even though baseball prospects routinely work long hours. Thus, under the bill, a player is guaranteed a minimum salary of $1,160 a month. The current minor-league minimum is $1,100 a month.
• Congressional Research Service: The bill mandates that reports published by Congress's in-house researchers be published online for public consumption.
• Religion and politics: The federal ban on tax-exempt churches engaging in political activity, known as the Johnson Amendment, will continue, despite attempts by Trump and GOP lawmakers to rescind it.
• Restaurant tips: Bars restaurant owners, managers or supervisors from keeping any portion of employees' tips. The section stems from a proposed Labor Department rule that would have allowed employers such as restaurant owners to "pool" their employees' tips and redistribute them as they saw fit.
• Yucca Mountain: The legislation blocks attempts by the Energy Department to restart a moribund nuclear storage program in Nevada.
A Section on 03/23/2018
Print Headline: Highlights of appropriations bill