Budget Negotiations Latest
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
President Trump this morning signed a new spending bill, and that ended what was a brief, partial government shutdown that many Americans probably slept through. A midnight deadline passed after Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky delayed a Senate vote. Eventually, though, the spending bill passed through the Senate very early this morning. The House followed suit hours later. Lots of activity to talk through with NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis. Good morning, Sue.
SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Good morning, David.
GREENE: So this means everything is settled. The gridlock is over in Washington and on Capitol Hill, and there's going to just be compromise after compromise.
DAVIS: You got it. Nothing to see here, right?
GREENE: Well, good.
GREENE: So what does this bill actually mean?
DAVIS: The intention of this two-year budget deal is to end this very shutdown cycle that we have been living in since September. What it does is it establishes the amount of money the federal government can spend on everything from the Pentagon to all domestic programs to things like the FBI. Part of why this agreement was so contentious is that it also includes $300 billion in additional spending over the next 10 years on top of that trillion dollars or so the federal government already spends every year to fund those programs. Once you have those top-line agreements, it will allow lawmakers to write their spending bills, and there will be no need for a shutdown, at least hopefully, through September of 2019.
GREENE: Oh, no, I'm going to miss these conversations that we have every few weeks about when the next shutdown might be coming (laughter).
DAVIS: You may still have a chance to have another one because while this bill set those top-line numbers, now they actually have to write that spending bill.
DAVIS: So what they passed is another short-term stopgap measure through March 23. And when that date comes up, they're supposed to actually enact the spending bill they all just agreed to. We think they will, but, as you said, David, stay tuned.
GREENE: We could be right back here having the same conversation.
DAVIS: (Laughter) Exactly.
GREENE: Well, let's get to some of the substance of this. I mean, as you said, there's this extra money in this bill, and that is never something that fiscal conservatives like Rand Paul enjoy very much. A number of House conservatives opposed it for that reason. I mean, how serious are the concerns they're raising?
DAVIS: This was a really tough vote if you won and were elected to Congress on promises of fiscal responsibility as a Republican. This is more spending than Republicans ever agreed to increase under President Obama where spending levels of government were also a big fight there. I think that a lot of Republicans feel that this vote broke that promise and could be a vote that comes back to haunt them beyond today and potentially in the midterm elections where they could potentially face primary challenges or other general election problems by people who said, hey, you promised to go to Washington and reduce the deficit and cut spending and, the deficit's growing, and you're spending more money.
GREENE: Well, then we have another concern about this bill, which came from many Democrats, which is that it did not include any immigration resolution.
GREENE: And Nancy Pelosi, the minority leader, I mean, she held that record-setting speech on the House floor. So where does that stand now?
DAVIS: What Pelosi was trying to extract was some kind of commitment from Republicans that they would take up immigration legislation. In the Senate, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already moved towards that debate. The Senate is expected to take up immigration next week. A lot of House Democrats wanted those same assurances. The issue of immigration has been a very emotional debate. And Nita Lowey is a Democrat from New York. She's the top Democrat on the appropriations committee that writes these spending bills, and she talked about this issue early this morning.
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NITA LOWEY: They serve with distinction in our armed forces. They pay taxes and contribute to their communities. President Trump and the Republican majority hold the lives and future of these children and young adults in their hands.
DAVIS: Now, she, of course, is talking about those affected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the people that were brought here illegally as children that Congress is trying to find a legal solution to.
DAVIS: And so what Democrats in the House are saying is we want a vote as well. The next big debate in Washington, it does seem like, will be immigration.
GREENE: And so this has House Democrats basically telling their colleagues in the Senate you may have gotten a promise from McConnell to go to an immigration debate, but in the House, we don't have any such promise. Is that where things stand? I mean, what are the chances for a debate on the House side?
DAVIS: Well, that was the perception. But we should note - Speaker Paul Ryan, in the closing moments before this vote, spoke on the floor, and this is what he said.
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PAUL RYAN: My commitment to working together on an immigration measure that we can make law is a sincere commitment. We will solve this DACA problem.
DAVIS: So there you have it. House Speaker Paul Ryan early this morning did make a very public commitment that the House and Congress will resolve this immigration issue.
GREENE: OK. So the budget debate resolved for now, and now it's onto what could be a pretty interesting debate over immigration in the coming days and weeks.
DAVIS: You got it.
GREENE: NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis - thanks, Sue.
DAVIS: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.