- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 19, 2019

The Senate approved a pair of spending packages Thursday, authorizing $1.4 trillion in spending and avoiding a government shutdown that loomed at Friday’s end.

One day after the House voted to impeach the president along partisan lines, a bipartisan majority voted to approve appropriations that delivered policy wins for both President Trump and his Democratic opponents. Mr. Trump’s administration secured additional funding for defense and nearly $1.4 billion for the southern border wall, while Democrats notched wins on funding for such items as healthcare and gun violence research.

Congressional appropriators reached an agreement with the Trump administration last week, but the text of the bills was made public Monday, which rankled the bases of both parties.

Sen. Mike Lee said Thursday that the spending bills were a “fiscal Dumpster fire” representing a false choice about whether or not to shut down the government. The Utah Republican said on the Senate floor that the last time the appropriations grouped in the two packages were voted on individually and “on time” was 1997.

“The secretive, undemocratic, irresponsive and ultimately irresponsible process that produced this bill is nothing short of a sham,” Mr. Lee said. “But then again so is the substance of the bill itself. It’s been like this for years now: Instead of actively setting and passing budgets within which we intend to stay, as we expect from any other organization, we make it up as we go along in as abusive and dysfunctional a fashion as the American people will possibly let us get away with, because that seems to be our aim, do whatever they let us get away with.”

The House voted to pass the two spending packages Tuesday, and Mr. Trump is expected to sign the legislation ahead of Friday’s government-shutdown deadline. Mr. Lee’s concerns echoed his conservative colleagues in the House who fretted about adding to the nation’s debt and deficit.

Rep. Chip Roy, Texas Republican, said Tuesday on the House floor that the legislation was “a massive, unreadable, 2,313-page bill filled with government-expand[ing] goodies and spending” and complained that lawmakers had not read the legislation.

Mr. Lee and Mr. Roy’s ideological opponents also assailed the bills and similarly failed to stop the bills’ passage. The House Progressive Caucus’ co-chairmen argued this week that the spending legislation “enables a cruel president and administration to continue to use immigrants as political pawns and ignore the will of Congress by transferring money that was authorized for essential priorities to the president’s own vanity projects.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, however, cheered the legislation and urged all of her Democratic counterparts this week to “take great pride” in the new appropriations.

The Senate’s vote on Thursday marks an end to a period of brinkmanship over federal spending. Since the longest-ever partial government shutdown ended at the end of January 2019, Congress has enacted a series of stopgap spending measures.

After Thanksgiving, House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby huddled repeatedly with Mrs. Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to reach a compromise. Ms. Lowey, who is preparing to retire rather than run for reelection in her New York district next year, remained outwardly confident that a deal would be reached even as the leadership of both parties sounded critical of any solution.

Mr. Shelby said Thursday that appropriators on both sides of the aisle and Mr. Mnuchin were crucial in getting the deal done before the end of the year.

“Everybody together negotiated the budget agreement that paved the way for these bills and they helped guide them down the stretch,” the Alabama Republican said on the Senate floor Thursday. “I believe these bills are good bills and that my colleagues can be proud to support them.”

Sen. Rick Scott, however, wrote an op-ed published ahead of the vote indicating he thought the legislation would not have been much different if Mrs. Pelosi had written it herself.

“You can argue that, in order to prevent a government shutdown, we have to work with [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi and House and Senate Democrats to get an agreement,” the Florida Republican wrote. “But I look at these spending bills and wonder, how would they be different if Nancy Pelosi sat in her office and wrote them by herself? She’s driving this train, making sure Democratic priorities are funded, and we’re letting her.”

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