Congress passed the first of a dozen spending bills Thursday on a bipartisan vote in a race to avoid a government shutdown on October 1, the first day of the 2019 federal fiscal year.
The House was the last to pass the spending package after both chambers met to create a finalized version. The spending package includes $147 billion in funding for nuclear defense, energy, military construction, and veterans programs. It is also the first of a series of “minibus” spending packages that need to be passed before the current fiscal year ends September 30.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle praised the bipartisan work that went into the proposal. They admitted they didn’t get everything they wanted but that it was a good compromise. The final vote reflected those views, with 377 in favor and only 20 “nay” votes.
The Senate and House Conference Committee said in a statement that the package marks the first time in more than a decade that the president has been sent more than one appropriations bill prior to the end of the fiscal year. The goal is to complete all 12 funding bills through the normal legislative process before the end of September.
The spending package includes three bills that provide funding for national defense nuclear weapons activities, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Energy, the legislative branch, the Department of Veterans Affairs, military construction and family housing for the Department of Defense, and other related agencies.
House Committee on Appropriations ranking member Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) was among the lawmakers who praised the bipartisan way the package came together. She thanked House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) and others from both parties who have been involved in the process.
The Senate overwhelmingly agreed to the final version of the package Wednesday with a 92 to 5 vote. Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) were the only senators to oppose the measure.
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The first bill covers energy and water issues with billions of dollars in additional funding. The Department of Energy will get a total of $15.23 billion for its nuclear national security programs.
The Army Corps of Engineers will receive an additional $7 billion to maintain the national water resources infrastructure. The bill also includes $13.5 billion for energy programs aimed at promoting economic competitiveness and energy independence
The second bill deals with military construction and veterans affairs appropriations. The Department of Veterans Affairs will get its highest dollar value for discretionary funding ever, at $86.5 billion. The bill also includes $10.3 billion for military construction projects at an increase of $241 million.
The final bill deals with legislative branch appropriations specific to Capitol Hill. The funds are aimed at bolstering the safety and security for elected representatives, staff and tourists.
The Office of Employee Advocacy will get a funding boost to help in its mission to provide legal consultation and assistance under the Congressional Accountability Act. It also includes funds for paid internships.
The House Appropriations Committee is currently working to advance the second and third minibus proposals to the floor as well. Frelinghuysen announced Thursday that it will include a continuing resolution to fund departments and agencies not currently covered through December 7.