Senate leaders optimistic about budget deal as another shutdown deadline approaches

NATION-NOW     New short-term spending bill Defense is in DREAMers are out     
       New short-term spending bill Defense is in DREAMers are out

NATION-NOW New short-term spending bill Defense is in DREAMers are out New short-term spending bill Defense is in DREAMers are out

In a vote of 245-182 on Tuesday night, the House passed a temporary spending bill to extend most government spending at current levels through 23 March while providing more funds for the Pentagon through 30 September, the end of the current fiscal year, reports Xinhua news agency.

"I'm pleased to announce that our bipartisan, bicameral negotiations on defense spending and other priorities have yielded a significant agreement", Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said on the Senate floor.

The package would boost US government spending on national defense and domestic programs by $300 billion over a two-year period, ending years of mandatory budget caps Republicans argued were hollowing out America's military and Democrats said were harming the needy.

The deal, brokered by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), would provide billions of dollars in funding for Veterans Affairs hospitals, infrastructure, and the opioid crisis.

Less than three weeks after the U.S. government shut down for three days after Democratic senators would not support a spending Bill that did not include protection for young undocumented immigrants, the threat of another shutdown loomed large this week. If the House rejects that, the government would edge closer to a shutdown after midnight Thursday.

"After months of fiscal brinkmanship, this budget deal is the first real sprout of bipartisanship". The measure is likely to fail in the Senate, where Democrats have the votes to block it.

The bill will also include at least $80 billion in disaster relief spending for victims of hurricanes and wildfires in Texas, California, Florida and Puerto Rico. It also raises the debt ceiling until 2019.

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The bill is expected to pass the Senate without much difficulty, before facing a harder sell in the House of Representatives.

Defense spending would increase by $80 billion over current law in this fiscal year and $85 billion in the one that begins October 1, according to a congressional official familiar with the plan. She said earlier Wednesday that House Democrats won't back the plan without a commitment from Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin to allow an open debate on immigration legislation, similar to a promise made by McConnell.

Non-defense spending would rise by US$63 billion this year and US$68 billion next year.

While the Senate has an agreement, that's not the case in the house.

Adding the budget caps deal, along with other possible items like disaster aid, could make the spending package more attractive.

Speaking on the Senate floor, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer praised the agreement as a moment when the Democrats and Republicans cooperate.

And some House Democrats may be reluctant to give up their leverage in the immigration fight by agreeing to a budget caps deal without a fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

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