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The biggest spending bill trade-offs for Republicans and Democrats

May 1, 2017 at 6:50 PM EDT
Congress' first bipartisan deal of the Trump era is a massive spending deal that keeps government running through the fall and boosts funding for the Pentagon and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. But to get needed Democratic votes on board, a number of President Trump's top priorities were cast aside. Lisa Desjardins joins William Brangham for a closer look.
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WILLIAM BRANGHAM: In the art of the latest deal to come out of Capitol Hill, a number of President Trump’s top priorities were cast aside to get enough Democratic votes on board.

Lisa Desjardins reports.

LISA DESJARDINS: The massive trillion-dollar-plus spending deal keeps government funded through the fall and gives this Congress its first bipartisan success.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-Ky., Majority Leader: These are important priorities for Congress and for the president. They reflect a lot of hard work. They promise to positively and meaningfully impact the lives of the men and women we represent.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, D-N.Y., Minority Leader: And, at the end of the day, this is an agreement that reflects our basic principles, something both Democrats and Republicans can support.

LISA DESJARDINS: President Trump told Bloomberg News he’s — quote — “very happy” with the bill.

What’s in it? First, what was a sticking point, security. In the end, the Pentagon got a healthy boost of some $20 billion. And Immigration and Customs Enforcement will see an increase of 8 percent, much of that for increased detention beds. The bill also funds 10 new immigration judges.

But it provides nothing for a President Trump priority, the border wall. Despite that loss, Vice President Mike Pence, speaking on CBS, called the deal a bipartisan win.

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: It’ll avert a government shutdown, but more important than that, there’s going to be a significant increase in military spending. Our armed forces have been hollowed out in recent years by budget cuts.

LISA DESJARDINS: Outside of defense, and in contrast to President Trump’s proposals, few agencies face significant cuts. Some, like the National Institutes of Health, will get a big lift, $2 billion. Plus, there is increased funding to help Puerto Rico’s financial crisis, to fund Pell Grants year-round, expand a mental health office and to fight opioid addiction.

Also in the billion, $2 billion to extend, permanently, health benefits for a large group of coal miners and their families. House Speaker Paul Ryan said the bill makes America — quote — “stronger and safer.”

But contrast that with Republican Jim Jordan of Ohio of the conservative Freedom Caucus.

REP. JIM JORDAN, R-Ohio: I think you’re going to see a lot of conservatives be against this plan this week. Why did we last fall do a short-term spending bill, if we weren’t going to fight for the things we told voters we were going to fight for?

LISA DESJARDINS: White House spokesman Sean Spicer acknowledged Republicans needed Democratic votes.

SEAN SPICER, White House Press Secretary: This is something that required 60 votes in the Senate. We couldn’t have our entire way on this, but we’re five months away from having a 2018 budget, and I think the president’s priorities will be reflected much more in that.

LISA DESJARDINS: With the latest stopgap funding measure set to expire Friday, the legislation could see a vote in Congress as early as tomorrow.

Two very hot topics, Planned Parenthood and sanctuary cities, as they are called, were ignored in this bill. Both keep their current funding for now, but expect those fights to heat up again likely as part of other bills, William.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Lisa,the Democrats are claiming this is a pretty big victory for them, the GOP, as we saw in your piece, a little bit less so. How do you see this shaking out?

LISA DESJARDINS: Well, today, the e-mails came out first from the Democrats overnight. And it took a little bit longer to hear from the Republicans.

But let’s look at — what their broad priorities, what they did here. Republicans made one big trade-off. They wanted defense spending to go up. They wanted some more border security spending, but not the border wall.

For that, they trade off a slew of issues that were important to Democrats, as we said, Puerto Rico. But there is a whole other range of them, including, for example, the National Endowment for the Arts, which got a slight increase in this as well.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: In the past, we have had shutdowns, or we came very, very, very close to having a shutdown. This wasn’t the case in this.

The GOP seemed to think that they were just going to get blamed if the government shut down, and that is why they seemed to have backed off a little bit?

LISA DESJARDINS: I think that is exactly right, because there were Republicans talking to us privately last week trying to get reporters in the framework of, oh, Democrats will be blamed if this shutdown happens.

But the very fact that they were bringing that up, William, you knew that they were worried that they would catch the blame. Part of that is because they were blamed the last time that happened, because they shut down government over the Affordable Care Act and trying to end that.

But I think there’s also an issue with Republicans that they are concerned that some of the issues they feel the most strongest about do not yet have majority of approval in polling, like Planned Parenthood. Most Americans want that to continue to be funded.

So if they are willing to shut down government over something that is unpopular, they think that will go blow up against them. So they didn’t take those stances in this bill.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: You touched on some of the very broad things that were being cut or being supported. But there are some very specific, real people that are targeted here or benefit here. Tell us about those people.

LISA DESJARDINS: I get to use more graphics. I’m excited.

(LAUGHTER)

LISA DESJARDINS: Let’s talk about some of the winners here that I found poring through the bill that you might not hear about otherwise.

The top of the list are military personal. They will receive a 2.1 percent pay raise. That’s something they have been fighting for. That is not an enormous pay raise, but it more than they had been getting, 1.6 percent, otherwise.

Now, the cities of New York and Palm Beach, they have a lot of residents in common, I think often, in winner and summer. One of those, of course, is President Trump. And he has been costing millions of dollars to those two cities to try and protect him and protect their residents as he comes. They will receive some $68 million to help pay for that added protection. They are the two largest recipients of that money.

And Amtrak, people who travel up and down the East Coast in particular, Amtrak is getting a big funding boost.

Now, not everyone did all that well. A couple of things that I noticed that did get some cuts, you might not hear about, the Coast Guard. The U.S. Coast Guard will not be getting as big of a pay raise as the rest of the military, and they’re also getting a cut.

And the U.N., listen to this, William. The U.N. will see some $640 million less from the United States in this bill that was passed than last year. That is a lot of money.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Indeed, it is.

But from the outside, as an observer, this certainly seemed like a relatively civil process, with not the usual sort of fighting and recriminations. Is it too much to read into this, or do you think this actually could be a change in the tone on Capitol Hill?

LISA DESJARDINS: Imagine that.

I don’t think so, actually. I noticed, when senators and congressmen came back from their Easter recess, that there seemed to be less of a personal sense of animosity that we had had up until that point, and that there had been more of a sense of the political.

So, I guess to paraphrase “The Godfather,” it’s not personal, it’s political. It had been personal. I think that’s good for civility, that’s good for conversation. But we still have a very large political problem, especially for Republicans. They still don’t have all the votes coalescing to get across the bills that they want.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Speaking of those, quickly, the health care bill, what is the likelihood we’re going to see something this week?

LISA DESJARDINS: Yes, I think you will talk to Amy and Tam coming up. I would like to hear what they say.

But I think right now, unlikely, for now. They do not have the votes. I think, we look ahead, a lot of these things, they are going to kick down the can. I also understand that the White House has been saying tonight that they will bring the border wall back up again later this summer. So I think we’re going to be regurgitating all of these issues again.

Republicans will have more and more chances to get their votes. We will see if they do.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, the NewsHour’s Lisa Desjardins, thank you so much.

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