Politics & Policy

House Passes $1.3 Trillion Spending Bill in Last Big Legislative Push before Midterms

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 22, 2018. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)

The House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly in favor of a $1.3 trillion spending bill Thursday, in what is expected to be the last major legislative action before the midterm elections.

The bill, which passed 256–167, now moves to the Senate as the Friday night deadline for avoiding a government shutdown looms large. It is being sold as a compromise by leaders in both parties, but it also has detractors on both ends of the political spectrum.

The conservative House Freedom Caucus opposed the package due to concerns about the ballooning national debt, while progressive lawmakers bemoaned its lack of permanent protections for so-called DREAMers in what may be Congress’s last chance to break the impasse over President Obama’s controversial DACA program.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, who reportedly traveled to the White House Thursday morning to sell the president on the legislation’s merits, celebrated “the biggest increase in defense funding in 15 years,” in a Wednesday statement. “This critical legislation begins to reverse the damage of the last decade and allows us to create a 21st-century fighting force,” Ryan said. The bill provides the Department of Defense a top line budget of $700 billion.

Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) conceded that many “compromises” were made, but touted increased funding to combat the opioid crisis and establish broadband networks in rural areas.

But while Schumer and his Republican counterpart, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, hoped to avoid another shutdown, Senator Rand Paul (R., Ky.) hinted that he will once again obstruct what he views as an overly hasty legislative process.

Asked Thursday when the upper chamber will vote on the bill, McConnell reportedly smiled and said, “Whenever Senator Paul decides we can.”

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