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Congress Strikes Bipartisan Deal To Fund Government Through September


Republicans might control Congress, but Democrats are pretty happy right now. That's because of a $1.1 trillion spending deal. The deal cut by congressional leaders means no government shutdown. And to learn more about it and the politics that go with it, we are going to talk to NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis. Hey, Sue.


MCEVERS: Why are Democrats so happy about this deal?

DAVIS: Well, they're happy about what's not in the bill. It does not include most of what the Trump administration initially asked for. There's no money in here to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. There is none of President Trump's proposed cuts to domestic programs. And there are no what we call poison pills. They're, like, controversial policy riders on issues that have been of common fight in the past like prohibiting money from going to Planned Parenthood. None of that is in there.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer today talked to reporters, and he said the deal is sort of proof that Democrats can still matter when Republicans control Washington and that they could continue to have leverage in negotiations when their votes are necessary to pass legislation. And that's important 'cause this is a dynamic we will likely see again this year and potentially sooner rather than later because Congress will have to do this all over again by the end of September.

MCEVERS: What do Republicans think about the bill? I mean did they get anything in return?

DAVIS: You know, avoiding a shutdown when you control government (laughter) itself is a bit of a win. And the White House has indicated President Trump will sign it when it reaches his desk. What this bill does, remember, is it essentially does - funds most of the functions of the federal government. And most of that has bipartisan support. And there's new money in here for things like cancer research and fighting the opioid epidemic. So that's stuff that's pretty popular across the board. There's a lot for lawmakers to be happy about in here.

Republicans' big win is they got more money for the Pentagon, for defense spending, and they got it without having to spend more money on domestic programs. That sort of dollar-for-dollar increase principle has been a fixture of past negotiations with Democrats, and since it didn't apply this time, Republicans say this is also a good sign for them that they can reach a deal when they have to do this again in September.

This bill is only good for five months 'cause Congress was supposed to do this last September, but lawmakers couldn't reach a deal in the height of election season, so it got punted into the first 100 days or the first 102 days, as it may be.

MCEVERS: Right. The Trump administration has said that they're going to try next year in the spending bills to get money for the border wall, and the White House also wants $54 billion in spending cuts. What are the chances for that to happen?

DAVIS: It's really steep. Although I would say the White House has indicated that that September fight over next year's funding is where the real clash is going to be. But the leverage Democrats had this time doesn't really change next time. You know, the administration's still going to need their votes to pass these bills, and Democrats are - remain unanimously opposed to things like the border wall, as do several Republicans - is worth noting.

So - and many of those spending cuts the president has outlined are dead on arrival. One good example is that - is the proposal to cut the State Department's budget by about a third. Republicans led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have made clear that that's not going to happen. The big question is, how willing is President Trump willing to go to force a government shutdown this fall if Congress isn't willing to fund his priorities or cut his priorities, as the case may be?

MCEVERS: Congress will vote on the spending deal this week. But what about the Republicans' health care bill?

DAVIS: Yeah.

MCEVERS: Are they any closer to a vote on that this week?

DAVIS: As of today, it remains unlikely this week. The math, the momentum still aren't there. As of today, there's about 22 Republicans publicly opposed to it, and that is the maximum number leaders can lose and still pass the bill because every Democrat in the House is opposed to it. Another 50 or so Republicans haven't made clear where they are on the bill.

The core of the opposition is coming from lawmakers in more moderate districts who don't support a controversial amendment that they say could weaken the preexisting conditions under current law. The White House keeps insisting they got a vote this week, but they don't really get a say on that. And Republican leaders still saying they're not going to bring it to the floor unless they know it can pass.

MCEVERS: NPR's Susan Davis on Capitol Hill, thank you.

DAVIS: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Susan Davis is a congressional correspondent for NPR and a co-host of the NPR Politics Podcast. She has covered Congress, elections, and national politics since 2002 for publications including USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal, National Journal and Roll Call. She appears regularly on television and radio outlets to discuss congressional and national politics, and she is a contributor on PBS's Washington Week with Robert Costa. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Philadelphia native.