WASHINGTON -- Congress gave final approval early today to a $1.3 trillion spending bill that ends the budget battles for now, but only after late obstacles skirted close to another shutdown as conservatives objected to big outlays on Democratic priorities at a time when Republicans control the House, Senate and White House.
Senate passage shortly after midnight Thursday averted a third federal shutdown this year, an outcome both parties wanted to avoid. But in crafting a deal that busts budget caps, they've stirred conservative opposition and set the contours for the next funding fight ahead of the midterm elections.
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 out the clock in protest. Then, an unusual glitch arose when Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho, wanted to remove a provision to rename a forest in his home state after the late Cecil Andrus, a four-term Democratic governor.
At one point, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., stepped forward to declare the entire late-night scene "ridiculous. It's juvenile."
Once the opponents relented, the Senate began voting, clearing the package by a 65-32 vote a full day before today's midnight 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."
Paul said later that he knew he could only delay, but not stop, the outcome and had made his point.
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 the government temporarily running amid partisan fiscal disputes.
Leaders delivered on President Donald Trump's top priorities of boosting Pentagon coffers and starting work on his promised border wall, while compromising with Democrats on funds for road building, child care development, fighting the opioid crisis and more.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said the bill fulfilled Trump's governing agenda, including by increasing military spending and funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
"This bill starts construction on the wall," he told reporters. "It funds our war on opioids. It invests in infrastructure. It funds school safety and mental health. But what this bill is ultimately about, what we've fought for for so long, is finally giving our military the tools and the resources it needs to do the job."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called the bill "a tremendous victory for the American people," one that keeps domestic agencies robustly funded while turning away Trump's push for more border wall and immigration enforcement money.
"If you want to think you're getting a wall, just think it and sign the bill," she said.
Broadly, defense spending is set to jump $80 billion over previously authorized spending levels, while domestic spending rises by $63 billion.
But there were plenty of grumbles in all corners of Capitol Hill about the rapid process that has left lawmakers and aides poring through text to see exactly what the bill will do. House GOP leaders waived their own rules requiring any bill going to the floor to be posted for at least three days, and none of the more than a dozen lawmakers surveyed Thursday said they had read the entire bill.
"There's no way humanly possible to read 2,232 pages," said Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., who is opposed to the bill. "Sometimes they jam you, but they pretend to give you three days to read it. All the veneer is off now."
Even Democrats who planned to support the compromise railed against the speed of the bill's consideration.
"No matter what you think about the bill, this process is something we have to stand up and say is unacceptable," Rep. Jim McGovern, R-Mass., said on the House floor.
House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, acknowledged the circumstances were not ideal.
"There was a good, hard work put into this, and the answer is we are going to move forward and take care of funding our military properly and the rest of the government," he said. "I, like you, see the frailties in what we do, and they're enormous and they're gaping holes, but we had to do what we had to do."
Besides the looming shutdown deadline, one consideration prompting the quick vote, congressional aides said, was the funeral today for the late Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y. Dozens of members were planning to fly to Rochester, N.Y., for the service.
Other lawmakers are set to leave on official delegations abroad as soon as today, aides said, taking advantage of the two-week congressional break for Easter and Passover.
"They just don't want to be around when the young people come to town," Pelosi quipped, referring to a gun-control march that students planned for Saturday.
Ahead of the vote, House leaders were confident that the compromise would gain enough bipartisan support to get the bill through the chamber Thursday -- much as a precursor budget agreement generated brief fury only to pass on a comfortable bipartisan vote in the pre-dawn hours.
"The members know what is at stake," House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., said late Wednesday after leaving House meetings during which his whip team began counting votes for the bill. "We have to pay our troops and support our president."
At the White House, Trump's top advisers worked to put the best face on a package they conceded fell short of fully funding his priorities and contained many items he would rather not have swallowed.
"In order to get the defense spending, primarily, but all the rest of our priorities funded, we had to give away a lot of stuff that we didn't want to give away" to Democrats, Mulvaney told reporters during a briefing in which he also highlighted funding for immigration enforcement, school safety measures, combating the opioid crisis, workforce development and infrastructure.
"My job is to get the president's priorities funded, which this does," added Mulvaney, a onetime budget hawk in Congress who routinely voted against large spending packages and sidestepped a question on whether he would have done so for the measure now before lawmakers. "The president wants it to pass and wants it to be signed."
Trump declared victory for his priorities in a tweet late Wednesday.
"Got $1.6 Billion to start Wall on Southern Border, rest will be forthcoming," he wrote. Most importantly, he said, were the wins in defense spending. "Had to waste money on Dem giveaways in order to take care of military pay increase and new equipment," he conceded.
In all, 90 House Republicans, including many from the conservative House Freedom Caucus, voted against the bill, as did two dozen Republicans in the Senate.
Ahead of Thursday's House vote, some Republican lawmakers said they were opposing the measure because of what they considered excessive spending. Some Democrats were opposed because it lacked language renewing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Trump has ended the program, which temporarily lets some young illegal aliens who were brought to the U.S. as children stay in the U.S.
The dickering played out for hours Wednesday, even after top congressional leaders left a morning meeting on Capitol Hill declaring that a deal was at hand.
One hotly disputed matter concerned funding for the Gateway program, a major New York-area infrastructure project. At Trump's behest, Republicans succeeded in eliminating some provisions favoring the $30 billion project, which includes building a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River. But project backers said it would still be eligible for hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer funds.
Democrats pressed particularly hard to block Trump's requests to fund a new wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and to beef up immigration enforcement capacity.
The bill includes $1.6 billion in funding for construction of a border wall, but that number is far short of the $25 billion in long-term funding that the administration sought. Democrats also won tight restrictions on how that money can be spent.
One late-breaking deal involved gun laws. Democrats agreed to add bipartisan legislation to improve the National Instant Criminal Background Check System for gun buyers, while Republicans agreed to add language making clear that federal funds can be spent on research into gun violence -- clarifying a long-standing restriction that has been interpreted as preventing such research.
Still, Democrats were beyond pleased with the outcome. Pelosi chronicled the party's many gains, and noted that they could have just as 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 Chalres Schumer, D-N.Y., said as the minority party in Congress, "We feel good." He added, "We produced a darn good bill."
Information for this article was contributed by Mike DeBonis, Erica Werner, Robert Costa, Ed O'Keefe, Josh Dawsey and Seung Min Kim of The Washington Post; by Andrew Taylor, Lisa Mascaro, Jill Colvin, Alan Fram and Matthew Daly of The Associated Press; and by Thomas Kaplan of The New York Times.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, at a news conference Thursday with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, called the House spending bill “a tremendous victory for the American people.”
A Section on 03/23/2018
Print Headline: House, Senate pass spending bill; Vote averts government shutdown, sends measure to Trump