- The Washington Times - Friday, July 24, 2020

The House on Friday passed a first tranche of 2021 spending bills to fund parts of the federal government past September, with Democrats eager to lay down markers and push back on President Trump on issues ranging from the U.S.-Mexico border wall to the Confederate flag.

The $259.5 billion package funds programs for the State Department, as well as agriculture, interior, and military construction programs, for fiscal 2021, which starts on Oct. 1.

The House voted 224-189 to pass the bill. Seven Democrats voted against the bill, and no Republicans supported the measure.

Democrats said it was important to pass the bill as a statement of the party’s values, even though the measure won’t become law and Congress will likely have to resort to another stopgap bill to keep the government running past September.

Since re-taking a majority after the 2018 elections, House Democrats have routinely tried to use annual spending bills in an effort to tie Mr. Trump’s hands-on, hot-button issues ranging from abortion to immigration.

“We are standing with our service members by prohibiting President Trump from stealing funds from our military in order to build his wall,” said House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat.

Republicans have said the bill won’t get through the GOP-controlled Senate or survive Mr. Trump’s veto pen.

The White House budget office had issued a veto threat this week.

The Democratic-led House can muscle through their spending bills without Republican support, but it takes bipartisan support in the Senate to thwart a potential filibuster.

Republicans said Democrats were needlessly trying to restrict the president and were using smoke and mirrors to skirt spending caps lawmakers agreed to as part of a budget deal last year.

“Why did we even work on spending caps in the first place if we’re only going to ultimately disregard them for partisan priorities?” said Rep. Michael Burgess, Texas Republican.

As Mr. Hoyer indicated, the bill the House passed on Friday bans military construction funds from being used for Mr. Trump’s U.S.-Mexico border wall.

The president declared a state of emergency on the southern border in February 2019 to move money from military construction projects and counternarcotics programs for the wall.

The president has shifted about $14 billion for the wall beyond what Congress had authorized. That issue is now being litigated in the courts.

The measure the House passed on Friday would also require the U.S. Park Police to turn over information about the June 1 confrontation between protesters and law enforcement in Lafayette Square near the White House or face a $50,000 funding cut for every day the department does not comply.

The bill bans the National Park Service from using money to buy or display Confederate flags except in limited circumstances where the flags provide “historical context.”

The bill also bars money from being used to build military projects on bases named after Confederate officers unless there are renaming plans in the works.

The House and Senate both included language in annual defense authorization bills to mandate base name changes, though the Senate’s version has a slower process.

Mr. Trump said Friday that Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican, agreed not to change the names of the bases.

“Like me, Jim is not a believer in ‘Cancel Culture,’ ” the president said on Twitter.

The House and Senate both passed their respective defense policy bills with veto-proof majorities.

The Senate Appropriations Committee has yet to mark up any of the 12 individual appropriations bills for fiscal 2021.

Lawmakers struck a deal last year to lift strict spending caps by roughly $320 billion over what had been allowed under the law and passed several stopgap bills to avert another shutdown.

A dispute over funding for the border wall sent the federal government into a 35-day partial shutdown in December 2018 and January 2019.

The House is also eyeing a floor vote as soon as next week on a seven-bill, $1.4 trillion spending package that would fund defense, health, education and transportation programs next year, among other items.

The 2021 homeland security funding bill is part of that package for the moment.

But liberals, citing the ongoing clashes between protesters and federal agents in Portland, Oregon, have raised concerns and said there shouldn’t be a floor vote on the DHS bill without additional reforms.

House Democrats opted against a floor vote on the typically thorny DHS funding bill last year.

In addition to the border wall, there are always heated debates over other parts of the bill, including funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention beds and money for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

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