Who benefits from the Senate’s new 2-year budget agreement? This was the question looming in my mind after reading a news report about the agreement. It seems as though the members of Congress are able to put aside their differences for a moment to address some of the major concerns facing the country presently. Some of the concerns addressed in the agreement include an almost $300 billion above spending limits for Pentagon and domestic programs (infrastructure, opioid epidemic, medical research, and community health centers). To reach this agreement, it appears that both sides had to concede in some areas. A compromise of sorts. Is this not what has allowed the United States to flourish throughout its history? I would think so.
However, some members of Congress are not overly pleased with the results of the agreement. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has stated that she would oppose the agreement until provisions are made for the “Dreamers.” Although the budget agreement addresses several issues on the Democratic agenda, Pelosi is calling for House Speaker Paul Ryan to extend a commitment to bring the immigrant issue to the floor for a vote. A Congressional measure is still needed to address the issue as President Trump’s deadline of March 5 is swiftly approaching. The only issue is that Speaker Ryan has stated that he would not bring the immigrant legislation to the floor for a vote if President Trump does not give his approval. In my estimation, we all are aware of how President Trump feels about this issue as a result of his propensity to tweet about the issue on numerous occasions. So what does this mean for the hundreds of thousands of people who have lived in this country for the majority of their lives? What will be their fate? At this juncture, it is uncertain. Fortunately, in the interim, the “Dreamers” have the support of a federal judge who has blocked Trump’s attempt to terminate DACA protection indefinitely.
In consideration of this, who stands to benefit from this new 2-year budget agreement? For one, the Pentagon will receive an $80 billion increase for military spending throughout the remainder of the 2018 fiscal year. In addition to this, military spending will also be increased by $85 billion for the 2019 fiscal year. These budgetary increases exceed the $26 billion increase requested by President Trump.
Although it seems that the Trump administration has won a decisive budgetary battle, the Democratic agenda has walked away with a substantial claim to an increase in spending limits as well. Infrastructure, disaster relief, opioid abuse, and veterans’ care will receive $60 billion in the 2018 fiscal year and a slight increase for the 2019 fiscal year. Not a bad deal, right? It is a win-win solution for both sides of aisle on some major issues. To use Sen. Chuck Schumer’s words, it is “a genuine breakthrough.”
One other topic of discussion is that the agreement is also expected to include provisions for an increase for the government’s borrowing cap. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders stated the provision would allow a suspension of the debt limit through March 2019 to prevent a default on U.S. obligations. However, at the time of the budget announcement, the exact terms of the increase were still in negotiations. The White House initially requested a 2-year deal, but the negotiations appear to be headed toward a less aggressive version of the agreement.
Although there many issues remain unaddressed by the Congress, we must agree that today’s events were a small step toward making some progress. How significant is this progress? This remains to be seen as we await future conversations to continue across the aisle, within each party, and with the White House. Stay tuned…
Sean Mungin, author of “The Thorn In The Flesh”