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House Passes Two-Year Budget Deal to Avoid Big Across-the-Board Spending Cuts

Trump says he will sign the bill to boost spending by $320B, but the Senate must act first.

The House on Thursday passed 284-149 a two-year budget deal that would boost top-line spending levels and put lawmakers on a path to set line-by-line appropriations for agencies across government. 

The vote followed months of negotiations spearheaded primarily by House Democrats and the Trump administration and avoids drastic, across-the-board funding cuts that were set to take place in October. It would also suspend the debt ceiling for two years, staving off the threat of a default. 

The measure—which will now go to the Senate for consideration, where it is expected to pass next week—would boost funding across defense and non-defense agencies by $320 billion over the next two years compared to levels established under the 2011 Budget Control Act. Absent the budget deal, federal agencies would have seen a $125 billion cut in fiscal 2020 alone across both defense and non-defense spending. 

A large contingent of conservative Republicans in the House voted against the bill, despite President Trump’s endorsement and his effort to lobby support. Despite some initial misgivings among progressives, Democrats fell in line and voted to approve the measure. Democrats praised the bill for permanently ending the threat of sequestration cuts and boosting funding for domestic spending next year by more than the bump for defense, while the White House and Republican leadership cited boosts for the Pentagon as a significant win for their side. 

The House now stands in recess until September, meaning the Senate must pass the bill next week without changing it. The upper chamber is expected to quickly work to pass appropriations bills upon returning from its own recess, and will have to negotiate with Democrats to reconcile those measures with the legislation the House has already approved. Congressional leaders have said they will attempt to fund agencies in fiscal 2020 with separate spending bills, rather than by merging all 12 must-pass measures into one omnibus.

Current appropriations are set to expire Oct. 1. 

“The president, congressional leaders and the leadership of the Appropriations Committees shall work together to reach bicameral and bipartisan agreement on the orderly and timely consideration of FY 2020 appropriations bills to avoid a government shutdown, and a 12-bill omnibus,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., wrote in a summary of the agreement.

In their negotiations with Treasury Department Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Pelosi and Schumer also agreed to avoid “poison pill” policy riders in those spending bills, such as language to increase access to abortion and to prevent the administration from transferring funds to build barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The budget deal would be the second such two-year agreement Trump has signed since taking office, following a similar measure passed in 2017. The bill would offset about $77 billion through increases to customs user fees and extending automatic cuts to mandatory spending.