• Key Trump priorities left out of US spending deal

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    WASHINGTON, D.C.: US President Donald Trump is “pleased” with a bipartisan deal to fund government through September, the White House said Monday (Tuesday in Manila), even though several of his top priorities were left out of the agreement.

    The newly-unveiled congressional deal includes Trump’s call for increased military spending, but rejects his demand to fund a border wall and maintains spending levels for key government operations including the State Department that he had proposed gutting.

    The agreement was struck late Sunday after weeks of tense negotiations fueled the threat of a government shutdown just as Trump was marking his 100th day in office.

    Congress is expected to vote this week on the new bill, which provides $1.163 trillion in overall federal spending, ahead of a Friday night deadline when government funding would expire absent a new agreement.

    “There’s a lot that he’s pleased in,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer said of Trump, citing increased military spending and added funding for border security operations. “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.”

    The agreement would keep federal operations running through September 30, the end of the fiscal year.

    Leaders in the Republican-controlled Congress will need support from Democrats in order to pass the legislation.

    The opposition party has hailed the spending bill as a victory because Trump’s administration punted on several elements named as priorities during his presidential campaign.

    Notably, it includes no money for Trump’s border wall.

    Trump made building the wall along the southern US border with Mexico a core election pledge, insisting it would begin within his first 100 days, a milestone that came and went on Saturday (Sunday in Manila).

    But Republicans are pleased because the bill adds some $1.5 billion in funding for other security efforts along the nearly 2,000-mile (3,218-kilometer) border, and boosts military spending.

    Of the trillion dollars in the bill’s discretionary spending, $598.5 billion is slated for defense – an increase of $25 billion, or 4.5 percent, above fiscal year 2016 levels, and 3.8 percent above the request by Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama last year.

    It also funds an authorized 2.1 percent pay raise for the military.

    White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney insisted the agreement “lines up perfectly” with Trump’s priorities, despite lacking wall funding.

    “We realized it was almost impossible if not impossible to actually get bricks and mortars on the ground in five months, so why start fighting about it now?” Mulvaney said on a press call.

    Trump held in check
    Top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi branded the deal a “defeat for President Trump.”

    Democratic negotiators prevented 160 “poison-pill riders” – controversial provisions that could sink the legislation – from being attached to the bill, and included priorities like assistance for debt-saddled Puerto Rico, Pelosi said.

    The measure adds $2 billion in new funding for the National Institutes of Health and, despite calls by social conservatives, maintains funding for women’s health care provider Planned Parenthood.

    Trump’s proposed cuts for the State Department were largely ignored, and the deal inserted $1 billion for famine prevention and relief into the department’s budget.

    The deal also maintains 99 percent of the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget, in what can be interpreted as another broad victory for Democrats.

    Trump had proposed slashing EPA funds by more than 30 percent, which would have cost thousands of jobs and reduced critical programs like grants for public water systems.

    The two parties managed to come together to extend health benefits for retired miners, and agreed to increase 2017 funding by $650 million to address America’s opioid addiction crisis.

    The cooperation comes as Trump seeks another shot at passing legislation that repeals and replaces most of Obama’s landmark health reform law.

    After an embarrassing setback last month when a Republican health bill collapsed over disagreements among moderates and conservatives, Trump sought to revive the effort last week with an amendment that would allow states to opt out of some Obamacare guidelines.

    But House Speaker Paul Ryan held off, acknowledging he did not yet have the votes, as some Republicans remained skeptical of the revised legislation.

    Trump’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus, told CBS News he was optimistic the health bill can reach the House floor “this week.”

    AFP

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