President Trump Starts Signing 2019 Spending Bills

On Friday, September 21, 2018, President Trump signed the first of what will be a series of budget bills to fund the U.S. government’s spending in its upcoming 2019 fiscal year, which will begin on October 1, 2018.

The first bill funds the Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as a number of military, energy, and water infrastructure projects, and also the U.S. Congress through September 30, 2018, which marks the end of the U.S. government’s 2019 fiscal year. At the same time, the measure will avoid the risk of a partial government shutdown until at least December 7, 2018, even in the absence of the passage of other spending bills.

The Washington Post‘s Erica Werner describes some of the more notable line items of what a bipartisan majority of U.S. Congress members chose to prioritize in the newly passed budget bill.

Friday’s package includes $86.5 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs, the largest dollar amount ever for VA. It contains provisions on a wide range of topics, among them:

  • $1 million for the Capitol Police for lawmaker security at events away from the Capitol, following last year’s shooting at a congressional baseball practice;
  • $174,000 for a death gratuity payment to the family of Sen. John McCain of (R-Ariz.);
  • A new fund allowing lawmakers to pay congressional interns, who have long been unpaid;
  • A one-year funding fix for the new VA Mission Act signed by Trump, which consolidates programs allowing veterans to receive private care coordinated by VA. This follows a fight over how to pay for the new law; the outcome was a short-term solution that will require lawmakers to revisit the issue in a year.

The next spending bill that will reach President Trump’s desk will fund the U.S. military and also the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Labor, and Education through the government’s 2019 fiscal year. When this $854 billion bill has been signed into law, over 75 percent of the U.S. government’s discretionary spending budget for 2019 will have been authorized by the U.S. Congress.

It’s quite a difference from how the U.S. Congress operated during President Obama’s tenure in office. The Hill‘s Jordain Carney and Niv Elis explain just how different.

Passage of the package of defense and domestic spending marks a significant victory for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has dedicated weeks of floor time to government funding and avoiding another catch-all omnibus bill less than two months before the midterm elections, where control of Congress hangs in the balance.

It’s the first time the Senate has approved funding for Labor, HHS or Education outside an omnibus bill since 2007, though even then the package was not completed on time. The bills normally get bogged down by fights over partisan riders, but Senate negotiators agreed early on to avoid attaching them to their legislation and were able to keep them out of the final House-Senate version of the package.

“These milestones may sound like inside baseball, but what they signify is a Senate that is getting its appropriations process back on track, a Senate that is attending to vital priorities for our country,” McConnell said.

If only they paid closer attention to the price tags.

Craig Eyermann is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute.
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