House Sends Spending Bills to Senate as Shutdown Deadline Looms

The U.S. Capitol is shrouded in mist on Dec. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (CN) – The House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a $1.4 trillion spending package, putting Congress on track to fund the federal government for the rest of the fiscal year ahead of an end-of-week deadline.

The pair of bills the House passed with bipartisan support on Tuesday are expected to also clear the Senate and be signed by President Donald Trump before the Friday deadline to avert a government shutdown. The package funds major federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Departments of Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services and Justice.

The bills gave members of each party the opportunity to claim victories. In a win for Democrats, the package lifts a two-decade ban on the Centers for Disease Control and National Institutes of Health conducting research on gun violence and gives the agencies $25 million to carry out such research.

The package also boosts spending for the 2020 Census by more than $3.7 billion – $1.4 billion above the White House’s request – and provides $425 million for election security grants to states, along with a 3.1% raise for federal civilian employees.

It also repeals taxes in the federal health care law on medical devices and high-cost health plans. In addition, the measure increases the age to purchase tobacco to 21.

At the same time, Republicans hailed the bill for including $1.375 billion for fencing along the southern border and not decreasing the number of beds available to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The appropriations process has dragged out in Congress, bogged down first by some of the fierce political debates that have consumed Washington during the Trump administration and then, more recently, the House’s efforts to impeach President Trump.

In order to avoid government shutdowns, Congress was forced to pass short-term spending agreements in September and November.

Members who spoke about the bills on the House floor before the vote agreed the spending agreement did not provide a clear win to either side and instead was the result of hard-earned compromise.

“The chair does not think it’s perfect, the ranking member doesn’t think it’s perfect,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Tuesday, referring to the leadership on the House Appropriations Committee. “I’m sure there’s nobody on any of the committees that thinks it’s perfect. But it achieves key priorities and will avert a damaging government shutdown and give certainty to agencies as they move forward in the next nine months of the fiscal year as to what resources they’re going to have available to get their job done.”

The bills passed shortly after the Senate approved a $738 billion defense spending bill the House cleared last week. That bill gives a 3.1% boost to military members, includes restrictions on the administration leaving NATO and imposes sanctions on those who committed atrocities during the Syrian civil war.

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