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Trump priorities left out of US spending deal

Tuesday, May 2, 2017 - 06:57

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US President Donald Trump is "pleased" with a bipartisan deal to fund government through September, the White House said on Monday, even though several of his top priorities were left out of the agreement.

[WASHINGTON] US President Donald Trump is "pleased" with a bipartisan deal to fund government through September, the White House said on Monday, even though several of his top priorities were left out of the agreement.

The newly-unveiled congressional deal includes Mr 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 which he proposed gutting.

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

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

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"There's a lot that he's pleased in," White House spokesman Sean Spicer said of Mr 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 Mr Trump's administration punted on several elements named as priorities during his presidential campaign.

Notably it includes no money for Mr Trump's border wall.

Mr 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.

But Republicans are pleased because the bill adds some US$1.5 billion in funding for other security efforts along the nearly 3,218km border, and boosts military spending.

Of the trillion dollars in the bill's discretionary spending, US$598.5 billion is slated for defence - an increase of US$25 billion, or 4.5 per cent, above fiscal year 2016 levels, and 3.8 per cent above the request by Mr Trump's predecessor Barack Obama last year.

It also funds an authorised 2.1 per cent pay raise for the military.

The deal makes America "stronger and safer," House Speaker Paul Ryan said in statement, because "it acts on President Trump's commitment to rebuild our military for the 21st century and bolster our nation's border security to protect our homeland."

TRUMP HELD IN CHECK

Top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi branded the deal "a defeat for President Trump." The measure adds US$2 billion in new funding for the National Institutes of Health and, despite calls by social conservatives, maintains funding the women's health care provider Planned Parenthood.

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

The deal also maintains 99 per cent of federal spending for the Environmental Protection Agency, in what can be interpreted as another broad victory for Democrats.

Mr Trump had proposed slashing EPA funds by more than 30 per cent, a cut that would have cost thousands of jobs and reduced critical programmes like grants for public water systems.

The two parties also managed to come together to extend health benefits for retired miners and their widows. And they agreed to increase funding by US$650 million in 2017 to address the nation's opioid addiction crisis.

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

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

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

Mr 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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