- The Washington Times - Friday, September 21, 2018

President Trump on Friday signed the first package of 2019 spending bills into law, as Congress looks to continue its best performance in years on passing annual appropriations bills on time.

The approximately $147 billion, three-bill package funds programs in energy, water, veterans, military construction and the legislative branch. It sailed through the House earlier this month on a 377-20 vote after the Senate passed it 92-5.

“With this legislation, we are securing a better future for our citizens, we’re modernizing our nation’s infrastructure, and we are building military bases worthy of our great heroes,” Mr. Trump said at an event in Nevada. “We are ensuring that our brave veterans are respected and cherished like never before, and our country… is respected like never before.”

House and Senate appropriators’ strategy to fund the rest of the government before current-year funding expires at the end of the month is also taking shape.

The Senate earlier this week passed an approximately $850 billion, two-bill package that funds the Departments of Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. The House is expected to take that bill up when it returns next week.

Appropriators also attached stopgap funding to the Defense-social services package that would fund the rest of the government until at least early December.

Lawmakers had already signaled that they would rely on stopgap funding for three bills, covering homeland security, commerce, justice, science and state/foreign operations programs, to give appropriators more time to negotiate.

That move would kick tougher fights, like one over Mr. Trump’s desired U.S.-Mexico border wall, until after the November elections.

But Mr. Trump injected some fresh uncertainty into the spending debate Thursday when he questioned where the money for the wall would come from after the midterms.

“I want to know, where is the money for Border Security and the WALL in this ridiculous Spending Bill, and where will it come from after the Midterms?” the president tweeted. “Dems are obstructing Law Enforcement and Border Security. REPUBLICANS MUST FINALLY GET TOUGH!”

Lawmakers said they could also pass four more annual bills, covering agriculture, environmental, financial services and transportation programs, by the end of the month, but have signaled there’s still more negotiating to do on those.

If they can indeed pass nine of the 12 annual bills before October — and if Mr. Trump signs them into law — about 90 percent of the federal government’s discretionary budget would be funded through next September.

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