Trump signs bill to end 2nd government shutdown in weeks

The U.S. Congress has ended a brief government shutdown by reaching a wide-ranging deal that is expected to push annual budget deficits to around $1 trillion.

Stopgap budget measure boosts spending, sets up new fiscal showdown by March 23

U.S. President Donald Trump attends the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington on Thursday. He signed a bill to extend funding of the federal government into law on Friday morning. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

The U.S. Congress ended a brief government shutdown on Friday by reaching a wide-ranging deal that is expected to push annual budget deficits to around $1 trillion.

The bill passed by a wide margin in the Senate and survived a rebellion of 67 conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives thanks to the support of some Democrats. Those conservatives were mainly angry about non-military spending increases.

President Donald Trump signed the measure into law on Friday morning, ending a government shutdown that began just after midnight, when Congress was still debating the budget deal.

It was the second shutdown this year under the Republican-controlled Congress and Trump, who didn't play much of a role in attempts by party leaders this week to end months of fiscal squabbling.

The deal is the fifth temporary government funding measure for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1 and replenishes federal coffers until March 23, giving lawmakers more time to write a full-year budget.

It also extends the U.S. government's borrowing authority until March 2019, sparing Washington politicians difficult votes on debt and deficits until after mid-term congressional elections in November.

Growing public debt

Once known as the party of fiscal conservatism, the Republicans and Trump are quickly expanding the nation's budget deficit and its $20-trillion US national debt.

The $300 billion US in spending included in the latest stopgap bill will ensure the annual budget deficit will exceed $1 trillion in 2019, said the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a private fiscal policy watchdog group in Washington.

Friday's budget deal allows for $165 billion US in additional defence spending over two years that will help Trump deliver on his promise to rebuild the military.

That won over many Republicans but some were still furious over the $131 billion US extra made available for non-military spending, including health and infrastructure.

None of the added spending will be offset by budget savings elsewhere or revenue increases, relying instead on government borrowing. There also is no offset reduction for nearly $90 billion in new disaster aid for U.S. states and territories ravaged by hurricanes or wildfires.

Republican Senator Rand Paul, objecting to deficit spending in the bill, engaged in a nine-hour, on-again, off-again protest and floor speech late on Thursday. He had harsh words for his own party.

In this image from video from Senate Television, Rand Paul speaks on the floor of the Senate. The Kentucky Republican said he was making a point about government spending. (Senate TV via AP)

"Now we have Republicans hand in hand with Democrats offering us trillion-dollar deficits," he said. "I can't... in good faith, just look the other way because my party is now complicit in the deficits. Really, who is to blame? Both parties."

His dissent forced the brief government shutdown, underscoring the persistent inability of Congress and Trump to deal efficiently with Washington's most basic fiscal obligation of keeping the government open.

Immigration issue unresolved

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and  others in her party had opposed the bill because Republican House leaders would not guarantee her a debate later on steps to protect about 700,000 "dreamer" immigrants from deportation.

These young people were brought illegally to the country as children years ago, mostly from Mexico. Trump said in September he would end by March 5 former Democratic president Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that protects the dreamers from deportation.

Trump urged Congress to act before then. Senate Republicans have pledged to hold a separate immigration debate this month.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California expressed her opposition to the bill in a marathon speech on Wednesday. (Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press)

House Speaker Paul Ryan had not offered Pelosi an equivalent promise in the House, although he said in a speech before the vote on Friday that he would push ahead for a deal.

"My commitment to working together on an immigration measure that we can make law is a sincere commitment," he said. "We will solve this DACA problem."
 
But Pelosi said Ryan's words fell short, accusing him of not having "the courage to lift the shadow of fear from the lives 
of" dreamers who face the prospect of deportation.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.