The House on a 211-198 vote Thursday passed a mammoth fiscal 2018 spending bill that reflects Republican priorities but stands no chance of making it through the Senate in its current form.
The 12-measure bundle, H.R. 3354 (115), would provide $1.2 trillion in government funding. But House leaders have yet to negotiate a politically feasible compromise with the Senate and — in particular — with Senate Democrats who can block spending bills on procedural votes. That means the legislation will not be signed into law by the start of the new fiscal year on Oct. 1.
Instead, Congress cleared a spending patch, H.R. 601 (115), last week that will continue federal funding at current levels through Dec. 8, when leaders hope to have reached a bicameral deal.
House Republicans called a vote in July on passage of the first four measures in the package, picking off the most noncontroversial bills to advance with Democratic support.
Because the remaining eight contain thornier policy issues and harder-to-swallow topline numbers for those in the minority party, GOP leaders launched an extensive whipping operation more than a month ago to ensure enough Republicans would be on board to pass the second chunk — no easy task considering the House’s most ardent fiscal hard-liners are not accustomed to voting for federal spending bills of any kind.
Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), an appropriations cardinal, told POLITICO in late August that GOP leaders were still whipping the final package and had yet to secure the requisite commitments for passage, more than a month after they first began tallying support.
Even over the week and a half leading up to the vote, some GOP leaders remained uncertain about the final outcome.
“There’s nothing in the bag,” House Rules Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) said before his panel began the first of two late-night meetings to tee up the package. “Do I believe we are going to present the conference and the House a package that they will be able to see as worthy of us moving on? Yes, I do.”
For most of the 12 bills in the package, funding levels come in below current spending but above President Donald Trump’s budget request.
The most drastic spending cut would be made in the division covering the State Department and foreign operations, which would receive $47.4 billion — $10 billion, or about 17 percent, less than current levels.
The departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs, as well as the legislative branch, would see funding boosted.
The legislation includes $1.6 billion to build several structural barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border, but would not fund a so-called border wall in the way the president has promised.
Before the legislation was debated on the House floor, GOP leaders took special procedural steps to delete two controversial amendments that had been adopted during committee consideration.
Without allowing lawmakers to go on record on the floor, in July leaders plucked language that would have phased out the 2001 war authorization. Then this month, they removed provisions that would have allowed federal employment for immigrants who have been granted waivers under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
In total, House leaders allowed floor debate on more than 460 amendments and dedicated eight work days to the package over a more than two-month span.