Congress Passes $1.3 Trillion Spending Plan, Funds Government Through FY 2018

After weeks of negotiations, Congressional leaders this week emerged with a $1.3 trillion omnibus budget bill that will fund the federal government through the remainder of the 2018 fiscal year, with funding expiring on September 30. The expansive 2,232 page bill featured significant increases in both defense spending, which was widely supported by President Trump and Congressional Republicans, and increases in domestic spending, which was urged by Congressional Democrats.

On Thursday, the House passed the measure on a 256-167 vote, and the Senate passed the measure on a 65-32 vote early this morning, effectively avoiding a federal shutdown that was slated to occur beginning midnight tonight, Friday, March 23. President Donald Trump, though he tweeted an early morning threat to veto the bill, signed the measure into law today.

Recall, in early February, Congress passed a short-term continuing resolution funding the government through today and agreed to a two-year budget framework that increased federal spending on defense and nondefense programs by over $300 billion over the next two years and increased the debt ceiling for one year.

Since the passage of the short-term funding measure and budgetary framework in February, Congressional leaders have been locked in negotiations to determine the amount of funds and where they would be spent. While the spending plan funds virtually all federal government departments and agencies, there are a number of health-related funding provisions included in the measure. These include:

  • $78 billion in overall funding to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ($10.1 billion increase from FY 2017)
  • $8.3 billion in funding to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ($1.1 billion increase from FY 2017)
  • $3.6 billion in additional funds to address the national opioid crisis via prevention, treatment, and law enforcement activities
  • $135 million in additional funds to community health centers
  • $37 billion in funding to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support further research into opioid addiction, a universal flu vaccine, brain initiatives, Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia, and other health conditions ($3 billion increase from FY 2017)

Notably, the spending measure did not include language or funding to help stabilize Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplaces and lower premiums for low- and middle-income Americans. Recall, Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) agreed to support the GOP’s tax cut measure last year on the promise that provisions would be included in the budget measure to stabilize marketplaces by reinstating cost-sharing reduction payments (CSRs) provided to health insurance companies to lower enrollee copayments and deductibles. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) has also been pushing for such stabilization provisions, though Congressional leaders were unable to come to consensus on a proposal.

The funding measure also includes provisions known as the Fix NICS Act, which addresses loopholes in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System that is used when individuals attempt to purchase firearms. The spending measure includes language explicitly specifying that the CDC can, in fact, conduct research into gun violence. The measure did not, however, address the Dickey Amendment, which prohibits the CDC from using funds that “may be used to advocate or promote gun control.”

Related to immigration, the measure includes $1.6 billion for protections along the U.S.-Mexico border, but with significant limitations around how the funding may be used. Increased funding is also provided to customs and immigration enforcement. The spending measure notably does not address the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA) which provides protections from deportation to over 700,000 immigrants brought to the country without documentation as children.

With federal government funding secured through the remainder of the fiscal year upon President Trump’s signature, reports suggest that this funding measure will be the last major legislative achievement ahead of the 2018 midterm elections that will be held in November.