WASHINGTON – Congressional leaders finalized a major budget deal Wednesday that would increase federal spending by more than $500 billion over the next two years. After funding the government with stopgap measures, the leaders hope to pass the agreement and end the recurring standoffs that have created the persistent threat of a federal shutdown.
Congressional aides and lawmakers familiar with the plan provided details of the framework Wednesday. Here are the most notable elements:
– Substantial increases in military and domestic spending: Under the agreement, previously established defense spending limits would be lifted by $165 billion over two years – by $80 billion in the current fiscal year and $85 billion in the next one. Nondefense spending limits would be raised by $131 billion over two years – $63 billion this year and $68 billion in 2019. The agreement includes another $160 billion in unlimited spending on overseas Pentagon and State Department operations. Democrats and Republicans have been wrangling over the numbers for months, with many GOP lawmakers underscoring the importance of upping military spending and many Democrats pressing for those increases to be matched with more federal dollars on the domestic side.
– Extend the nation’s borrowing authority: According to Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., and Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., the plan will include a provision suspending what is known as the “debt ceiling” into next year. The debt ceiling has been a politically charged topic, and suspending it beyond the November midterms would keep the issue mostly out of the campaign fray, easing the path, particularly for GOP incumbents who do not want to have to face more votes on this in the coming months.
– Funding the Children’s Health Insurance Program for a decade: Congress reauthorized CHIP for six years as part of a stopgap government funding bill they passed last month. The measure unveiled Wednesday extends that funding to a window of 10 years. CHIP helps about 9 million children and hundreds of thousands of pregnant women who cannot otherwise afford medical care.
– $6 billion to address opioid addiction and mental health issues: The money, allocated over two years, will go toward issues lawmakers in both parties have been increasingly speaking up about in recent months. The figure is significantly less than what many have called for to address the crises, but it underscores the growing urgency about them on Capitol Hill.
– More funding for disaster relief: The plan includes $90 billion more to be spent on disaster aid for recent hurricanes and wildfires, which have spurred calls from some lawmakers for a more robust federal response.
– Does not address ‘dreamers’: While many Democrats had pushed for protections for young undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, the deal does not address those “dreamers.” Nor does it tackle border security or legal immigration laws, areas where some Republicans are pushing for changes. Congress will have to deal with these matters separately. It remains unclear whether lawmakers will be able to reach a deal amid stark differences between the two parties on issues over which they have struggled to reach an accord for years. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., agreed to try as part of an arrangement with Democrats to end last month’s government shutdown. But senators have been left wondering what, if anything, that pact will yield.
The Washington Post’s Mike DeBonis and Erica Werner contributed to this report.
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