Senate moves to avoid shutdown, okays military, education, health spending

Approving a deal worked out by Congressional negotiators, the Senate on Tuesday okayed a compromise package which funds the Pentagon, along with money for major domestic health programs in 2019, as lawmakers will leave a chunk of other federal agencies on a temporary spending plan that lasts into early December.

The $712 billion in funding for military operations was paired with funding for popular research agencies like the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control, and includes extra money to fund work on the opioids epidemic.

"We are making real progress here," said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby.

The bill is expected to be approved next week by the House, which would mean that Congress will have completed five of the 12 federal government funding bills before the new fiscal year begins on October 1.

The bill adds almost $20 billion to the military for 2019 over this year, part of the push by Republicans and the Trump Administration to add extra funding for the military.

Democrats were also successful in getting extra money for a number of domestic priorities, like an extra $2 billion for research on cancer and Alzheimer's, and $6.7 billion to deal with opioid abuse.

The bill also includes a 1.9 percent pay raise for civilian workers of the Defense Department and the other domestic agencies funded in this bill, which would free them from a threat by the President to cancel a scheduled pay increase for federal workers in 2019.

Members of the armed services would do a little better, getting a pay raise in 2019 of 2.6 percent.

"It's a product of hard work and bipartisan cooperation," said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who said lawmakers are still negotiating the other unfinished bills - as Congress is on course to do the most spending work before the fiscal year deadline in many years.

But, Congress still won't be finished with all the spending bills by October 1, requiring a stop gap budget to be approved next week, and signed by the President.

Since the House and Senate reformed the budget process in 1974, lawmakers have only finished their spending work on time in 1976, 1988, 1994 and 1996.

Some Republicans wanted the President to force a shutdown showdown at the end of this month over money for his border wall, but GOP leaders in the Congress advised against that, worried it would boomerang against the GOP before the elections.

Budget watchdog groups denounced the approval of these two spending bills, arguing the Congress is doing little about the deficit, which already stands at nearly $900 billion for 2018.

"It completely ignores the trillion dollar annual and perpetual deficits that are fast approaching," the Club for Growth said in a statement calling on Senators to reject the plan.

But few listened, as the Senate voted 93 to 7 in favor of the plan.

The full text of the bill is available here.

You can also read the extensive report language on the bill as well.

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