A sweeping two-year budget deal announced by Senate leaders Wednesday promises to end the shutdown threats that have plagued Congress but fails to address the nagging issue of immigration and will add to a deficit already ballooning because of the GOP tax cut plan.
Approval of the $300 billion bipartisan accord was not guaranteed, with votes expected today. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., seized the House floor for nearly the entire day in a filibuster-like talkathon to demand protections for young immigrants known as “Dreamers.”
In her eight-hour, seven-minute speech—a House record—Pelosi said she would reject the budget deal unless Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., agrees to consider legislation to protect them from deportation, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has done in the Senate.
If passed, the deal, which would also raise the nation’s debt limit for a year, would push ugly partisan fights over government spending well past the November midterm election. Theoretically it would allow Congress to focus on more substantive issues, such as immigration and infrastructure. It would be the first multiyear, bipartisan budget deal reached since 2015.
Negotiators are hoping to include the accord in what would be the fifth—and possibly final—short-term continuing resolution of this fiscal year. That extension would fund the government past Thursday’s deadline until March 23, after which legislation with funding at the new levels, a so-called omnibus bill, would need to be approved.
The agreement circumvents the strict budget caps imposed under a 2011 budget deal and adds $57 billion in new spending equally to both defense and nondefense accounts through fiscal 2019, according to those familiar with the talks. Republicans have been pushing for the military increases, and Democrats insist on parity for domestic programs.
The result would be a boost in Pentagon spending of about $80 billion each year beyond what the law allows, rising from $551 billion in fiscal 2017 to $647 billion by fiscal 2019. Nondefense accounts would increase by more than $60 billion, to $597 billion by 2019.
The package also includes $90 billion in supplemental disaster aid spending for coastal and Western states and Puerto Rico, ravaged by hurricanes and wildfires—more than had been suggested earlier in a House bill but not as much as California and others sought.
Unlike the past agreements to avoid the steep “sequester” cuts in 2013 and 2015, the deal announced Wednesday would be only partially offset with spending reductions or new revenue elsewhere, making it a nonstarter for many conservative Republicans—especially after the GOP tax package added nearly $1.5 trillion over the decade to deficits.
“No one would suggest it is perfect, but we worked hard to find common ground,” said McConnell.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., touted many Democratic priorities, including a two-year extension of funding for community health centers, a 10-year extension of funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program and money to fight the opioid drug crisis.
“This budget deal is the first real sprout of bipartisanship,” Schumer said. “We have reached a budget deal that neither side loves but both sides can be proud of. That’s compromise. That’s governing.”
Pelosi’s opposition, though, thrusts the immigration debate back into the budget standoff, much the way President Donald Trump did Tuesday when he said he’d “love to see a shutdown” if his immigration priorities, such as a border wall and limits on legal immigration, were not part of the budget package.
“The budget caps agreement includes many Democratic priorities,” Pelosi said Wednesday. But after surveying the Democratic caucus, she said the absence of immigration legislation was a deal breaker for some members.
Pelosi wants Ryan to commit—as McConnell did last month as part of the deal to end the three-day government shutdown—to consider bipartisan measures to protect the immigrant Dreamers as Trump ends the Obama-era program that shields them from deportation, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
Pelosi seized the House floor in a rare filibuster-like speech that began about 10 a.m. EST. Standing in 4-inch heels the entire time without a break and surrounded by colleagues, Pelosi’s speech shattered the previous record for the longest in the House, set in 1909.
The Senate is expected to launch an immigration debate in a matter of days, as soon as the shutdown threat is averted.
“Without a commitment from Speaker Ryan comparable to the commitment from Leader McConnell, this package does not have my support,” she said.
Ryan, however, has made no such commitment on Dreamers, stoking concerns that any immigration bill would simply languish in the House.
The immigration debate drove the shutdown last month, as Democrats pushed McConnell to agree to prioritize the issue, but it had not been part of more recent budget negotiations, despite Trump’s nudging.
Pelosi’s support for the budget deal will be vital because Ryan will almost certainly not be able to pass spending increases over objections from his conservative flank, including the Freedom Caucus, without relying on Democratic votes.