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Congress passes $854 billion spending bill without funds for Mexico wall, sending it to Trump

AFP-JIJI

The U.S. House passed an $854 billion spending bill Wednesday that ramps up military funding but does not include President Donald Trump’s cherished border wall, sending him the measure days before the government runs out of money.

The bipartisan measure, which passed 361-61, funds the department of defense and a handful of agencies, and includes a short-term extension of funding for other operations until December in order to avoid a government shutdown.

The Senate easily passed the 2019 spending package, which provides U.S. service members with their biggest pay raise in nine years, earlier this month.

It allows for robust investments in defense operations, which are funded to the tune of $674.4 billion — a boost of $17 billion over 2018 levels. It also includes $67.9 billion for war on terror efforts and ongoing war funds known as overseas contingency operations.

The bill also increased National Institutes of Health funding to $39 billion, $2 billion higher than this year, and provides $6.7 billion for programs to combat America’s opioid crisis.

With the September 30 fiscal year deadline looming, Republicans are counting on Trump to bite the bullet and sign the bill into law, despite it failing to provide funding to build his much-promised wall on the US border with Mexico.

“We’re going to keep the government open,” Trump told reporters in New York, where he was attending the U.N. General Assembly.

Trump has consistently called for construction of a border wall as part of his efforts to stem illegal immigration, and at recent rallies he had go so far as threatening a government shutdown over the issue.

A government shutdown crisis could severely hurt the party’s efforts in the November congressional elections, and Republican leadership appeared uninterested in taking chances with a stoppage of federal operations.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said the measure funds some 75 percent of total discretionary spending, and is the first time in 22 years that such a large portion of the federal pie has been funded before start of the fiscal year.

“This brings certainty to our armed forces,” Ryan said.

Number two House Democrat Steny Hoyer said he was pleased that both parties worked together “to move this minibus appropriations package through Congress free from partisan riders or severe cuts to programs that help workers access economic opportunities.”