Congress Passes $1.3 Trillion Government Funding Bill, Averts Shutdown
AILSA CHANG, HOST:
Congress is less than three days away from another government shutdown deadline, and they have just released a $1.3 trillion bill that's more than 2,000 pages. There's only one problem. Nobody seems to know how they'll rush the legislation through before the Friday night deadline. NPR congressional reporter Kelsey Snell is here to walk us through what we know. Hey, Kelsey.
KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Hi, Ailsa.
CHANG: So 2,000 pages - that's huge. What's in this thing?
SNELL: It is a whopper of a bill based on that big budget deal that Congress passed after the shutdown earlier this year. Now, this bill takes care of funding the spending that that legislation set up. Now, Democrats and Republicans are both claiming a lot of victories here. That's partially because there's a little something for everybody in this bill. Republicans are celebrating big increases in military spending, and it's been in nearly press release and statement we've seen. And Democrats are celebrating more money for community health centers, early childhood education and fighting opioid addiction.
But there have been some troubles. That's in part because there was a slew of unrelated policy add-ons commonly known as riders. And they have been a real problem throughout this whole process. A few of the big highlights there - first, the bill would change the Federal Background Check system for gun purchases. So the different jurisdictions communicate with each other better when someone commits a crime. So if somebody commits a crime and then wants to buy a gun, it's more likely to be in this system.
SNELL: Another big item that was a big sticking point is money for border security. Now, you'll remember President Trump wanted $25 billion for building a border wall. Now, this includes about 1.6 billion, and that would only go toward building fencing along the border, repairing fencing and beefing up border security. Democrats are spinning it as a victory because the money would come with some tight restrictions - no money for a concrete wall or new immigration agents. And it would explicitly protect the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge in Texas.
CHANG: Well, if both sides here got something that they want, what took so long for them to put this bill together?
SNELL: One major issue has been the fight over what to do about immigrants who are protected under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. That's DACA. This does nothing for them even though that's the thing that Democrats shut the government down over earlier this year - over that exact same issue. And some conservatives, particularly in the House, are really not very excited. They're mad that there isn't money to build the wall. They are mad that the bill would add to the deficit. And they're mad that the bill includes money for domestic programs like Democrats are celebrating. Here's what Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan told reporters earlier today.
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JIM JORDAN: That is not in any way close to what the election was about, close to what we campaigned on, close to what we told the American people we were going to accomplish if they gave us the privilege to serve and be in power.
CHANG: Well, President Trump is often closely aligned with conservative Republicans like Jim Jordan. Do we know if the White House agrees with them? I mean, will they support his?
SNELL: Speaker Ryan and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell went to the White House earlier today to talk to the president specifically about the victories they see in this bill. After they left the meeting, the White House released a statement saying that they talked about victories and talked about supporting the spending bill. So as far as we know, the White House is on board.
CHANG: OK then. Well, how likely is it then that this deal still won't come through and we may be looking at another government shutdown?
SNELL: Leaders and staff keep promising me that we will not have another shutdown. All four leaders - House, Senate, Democrats, Republicans - all say they like the bill. The House has the tools available to speed things through, but there's always the Senate.
SNELL: Things can go pretty slowly here. And technically speaking, they have to wait through dozens of hours of debate before a bill can finally pass. But if all hundred senators agree, they can go fast. Now, all eyes are on Rand Paul because he forced a technical shutdown in February after he wanted the Senate to keep debating into the wee hours of the morning. We'll have to see how he feels now that the actual legislation is here.
CHANG: That's NPR congressional reporter Kelsey Snell. Thanks, Kelsey.
SNELL: Thank you.
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