House clears $1.3T spending bill with $210B in emergency cash

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The legislation has no shot in the Republican-controlled Senate and President Donald Trump has already threatened to veto it. But it still represents an opening offer from House Democrats in negotiations to pad federal agency coffers in fiscal 2021 and avoid a catastrophic government shutdown at the end of this fiscal year, which is on Sept. 30.

Meanwhile, the appropriations process is totally stalled in the Senate, with Democrats and Republicans bickering over whether to include emergency coronavirus cash in their annual spending bills. Congress is at an impasse over how to deliver another tranche of pandemic relief as unemployment ticks up and infections spike across the country. Combined with election year politics, lawmakers are likely on track to pass a short-term spending fix to keep the government open past Election Day.

Republicans have slammed House Democrats for loading up their spending bills with billions of dollars in emergency spending, arguing that the extra cash blows up a two-year budget deal struck last summer. That pact, H.R. 3877 (116), boosted spending and allotted a total of $740.5 billion in defense funding and $634.5 billion in nondefense funding for fiscal 2021.

GOP members have also railed against appropriations provisions that the president will never accept. The legislation passed on Friday, for example, would thwart the administration’s ability to shift more military funds toward a border wall. It would set aside $1 million for the Army to rename 10 bases that honor Confederate leaders. And it would condition hundreds of millions of dollars in state and local law enforcement grants on the elimination of racial profiling, implicit bias, the use of chokeholds and more.

The lower chamber adopted more than 300 amendments on Thursday, including a tweak quietly by voice vote that would block the Trump administration’s restriction on transgender individuals serving in the military.

“As we confront the twin crises of Covid-19 and systemic racism, the bill takes bold steps to build safer and stronger communities for all people,” House Appropriations Chair Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), who’s retiring at the end of this year, said on Thursday. “I am proud of the work we have completed under the incredibly difficult circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic.“

The $1.3 trillion minibus had originally included a measure to fund the Department of Homeland Security, but Democratic leaders were forced to torpedo it earlier this week amid strong resistance from both progressives and centrists within the caucus.

Passage of the massive appropriations package comes after the House approved a smaller four-bill, $259.5 billion bundle last week, H.R. 7608 (116), that would fund the departments of State, Interior, Agriculture, Veterans Affairs and other agencies with billions of additional dollars.

The House has now passed 10 out of 12 spending bills on the floor. In addition to yanking the Homeland Security spending measure, House leaders have no plans to consider the bill that funds parts of the legislative branch. That measure doesn’t include a cost-of-living adjustment for members of Congress — a past priority for Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and other lawmakers who’ve endured more than a decade of pay freezes.