WASHINGTON — The U.S. House overwhelmingly approved spending legislation through September that is expected to sail though the Senate to the president's desk. President Donald Trump is expected to sign it before government funding runs out Friday night.
The lower chamber on Wednesday voted 309 to 118 to advance the $1.1 trillion bill unveiled Monday after weeks of talks. The 1,665-page omnibus bill includes the 11 remaining appropriations bills, including $598.5 billion for defense, which is roughly $25 billion above 2016 levels.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., claimed the bipartisan budget deal as a win because it breaks the Democrats' formula of demanding military hikes be matched on the non-military side — an interpretation of the deal that Democrats disagree with.
The bill contained an added $15 billion of the $30 billion supplemental for defense that the president sought.
"This bill involves a plussing-up defense and not balancing it with domestic spending increases," McConnell said. "In other words, defense is no longer being held hostage to Democratic insistence on plussing-up non-defense."
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, told reporters on Tuesday he would support the bill, in part because the alternative could be year-long stopgap funding, which keeps spending flat and which he called "disastrous for the military."
Because it falls short on Trump's requested increase for defense there's added pressure on the 2018 budget to "fix readiness," Thornberry said. The $15 billion "is not enough to fix our military, but there is some money to begin to deal with readiness issues," he said.
Some Republicans were ambivalent on the bill it did not punish so-called sanctuary cities that skirt federal immigration enforcement or provide funding for a border wall. After Republicans punted on a budget earlier in fiscal 2017 and instead passed a four-month stopgap continuing resolution — all to give Trump a chance to put his stamp on appropriations — they expected more.
"Why did we do a short-term CR if we weren't going to fight for the very things we campaigned on," said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. "The deal in December was, the cavalry is coming in April. We would have the House, the White House and Senate and deal with a border wall, money for sanctuary cities, and we didn't do that."
That thinking is likely to fuel some 'no' votes in the Senate. Senate Armed Services Committee member Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said on CNN on Tuesday that he had not decided whether to vote for the omnibus. "I think the Democrats cleaned our clock (in negotiations)," he said.
Ahead of the vote, Democrats hailed the bipartisanship that led to the deal while key hawkish Republicans in the House urged support.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., said the omnibus "most importantly prioritizes funding for national defense, restoring the capacity of our armed forces."
House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Kay Granger, R-Texas, nodded to the president’s key campaign trail pledge on defense, saying the omnibus was "the first big step to rebuilding our military."
Joe Gould is the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He served previously as Congress reporter.