Talks on $1.3 trillion US spending bill hit critical stage

18 March 2018, 08:00 AM
Talks on $1.3 trillion US spending bill hit critical stage (File Photo)
Talks on $1.3 trillion US spending bill hit critical stage (File Photo)

Top-level congressional talks on a USD 1.3 trillion catchall spending bill are reaching a critical stage as negotiators confront immigration, abortion-related issues and a battle over a massive rail project that pits President Donald Trump against his most powerful Democratic adversary.

The bipartisan measure is loaded with political and policy victories for both sides. Republicans and Trump are winning a long-sought budget increase for the Pentagon while Democrats obtain funding for infrastructure, the opioid crisis and a wide swath of domestic programs.

The bill would implement last month's big budget agreement, providing 10 percent increases for both the Pentagon and domestic agencies when compared with current levels.

Coupled with last year's tax cut measure, it heralds the return of trillion-dollar budget deficits as soon as the budget year starting in October.

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While most of the funding issues in the enormous measure have been sorted out, fights involving a number of policy "riders", so named because they catch a ride on a difficult-to-stop spending bill, continued into the weekend.

Among them are GOP-led efforts to add a plan to revive federal subsidies to help the poor cover out-of-pocket costs under President Barack Obama's health law and to fix a glitch in the recent tax bill that subsidizes grain sales to cooperatives at the expense of for-profit grain companies.

Trump has privately threatened to veto the whole package if a USD 900 million payment is made on the Hudson River Gateway Project, a priority of top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York.

First Published: Sunday, March 18, 2018 07:32 AM
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