- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 22, 2018

The House narrowly cleared an initial procedural hurdle on the $1.3 trillion spending bill Thursday, as lawmakers race against an end-of-Friday deadline to stave off a potential third partial government shutdown of 2018.

The House voted 211-207 to start debate on the bill despite bipartisan grumbling about the fact that members are voting on a 2,232-page bill little more than 12 hours after its release.

“It is no way a perfect bill,” said Rep. Pete Sessions, Texas Republican and chairman of the House Rules Committee. “But with that said, it yielded amazing results and a process that needed to come to a conclusion.”

Republicans are touting the $80 billion funding boost for the military, bringing the funding levels for fiscal year 2018 to $700 billion.

As the margins remained razor-thin well into the vote, there were cries from the Republican side of the chamber to gavel it closed and prevent anyone from changing their mind at the last minute.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy at one point made a gesture mimicking a gavel coming down, as leaders do everything they can to speed things through.

Democrats, meanwhile, had boasted about the billions in additional dollars they secured for domestic priorities such as health care and infrastructure. Non-defense discretionary spending got a $63 billion boost above prior spending caps, to about $600 billion in 2018.

But they also decried a lack of new protections for young illegal immigrant “Dreamers,” and pointed out that members were being asked to weigh in on the legislation with the initial vote with barely any time to read it.

In a fiery floor speech, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said the Republican majority was making a mockery of its past self-imposed guidelines meant to give members enough time to digest such legislation, and urged Democrats to defeat the rule.

“This is an abomination of the legislative process, and you’ve had six months to get it right,” said Mr. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat. “This is wrong. Vote no.”

Congress is already nearly six months late in passing the legislation. It has kept the government running on a series of short-term, stopgap funding bills and has already weathered two brief partial shutdowns this year.

The additional military funding also wasn’t enough to win support from many conservatives who said they couldn’t stomach the bill’s overall price tag and that their leaders failed to hold the line on issues like defunding Planned Parenthood and sanctuary cities.

The House Freedom Caucus, a group of about three dozen hard-line conservatives, had already taken an official position against the measure late Wednesday, meaning at least 80 percent of its members opposed it.

They wrote a letter to President Trump Wednesday urging him to join them in rejecting it.

“We urge you to remember the countless forgotten men and women of America who placed their faith in you to change business as usual in Washington, D.C.,” they wrote.

The White House said Wednesday that Mr. Trump supports the package, but the president indicated in a Wednesday evening tweet that he didn’t think it was a perfect deal.

“Got $1.6 Billion to start Wall on Southern Border, rest will be forthcoming. Most importantly, got $700 Billion to rebuild our Military, $716 Billion next year…most ever. Had to waste money on Dem giveaways in order to take care of military pay increase and new equipment,” the president said.

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