US Senate agrees on rare $300bn bipartisan spending deal

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Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) (L) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) walk side-by-side to the Senate Chamber at the Capitol February 7, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by AFP)
In a rare show of bipartisanship, Republicans and Democrats in the US Senate have agreed on a two-year deal to increase government spending by $300 billion, in order to avoid government shutdown in the future.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer unveiled the deal on Wednesday night, on the eve of a deadline to avert another government shutdown.
“This bill is the product of extensive negotiations among congressional leaders and the White House,” Senator Mitch McConnell, a Republican, said on the Senate floor. “We worked hard to find common ground and remained focused on serving the American people.”
The agreement would lift caps on military spending and allocates more funds for disaster relief, infrastructure and programs addressing opioid abuse, the Senate leaders said.
According to the White House, the bipartisan understanding would allow the government’s debt ceiling to be extended until March 2019. The Treasury Department has warned that that without an extension, the government would run out of borrowing options in the first half of March.
However, it is also expected to increase the bulging federal deficit which is estimated to be around $440 billion for fiscal year 2018, similar to President Donald Trump’s tax cuts approved by Congress in December.
Before reaching Trump’s desk the new deal needs to be passed in the House of Representatives and the Senate, both controlled by Trump’s fellow Republicans.
While the new arrangement is likely to easily pass Senate, House Democrats seem unsatisfied with it as they have already warned that they will not back the spending hike unless promise to advance separate legislation on immigration policy.
This is while, Schumer, the leader of the Senate Democrats, said the deal was going to end partisan fights over spending that have plagued Washington over the past weeks.
“After months of fiscal brinkmanship, this budget deal is the first real sprout of bipartisanship. And it should break the long cycle of spending crises that have snarled this Congress and hampered our middle class,” the New York Senator said.
The higher defense spending would finally allow Trump to deliver on a key campaign promise to beef up the US military.
The US government was officially shut down in late January after the lawmakers failed to pass the budget over Trump’s immigration policies and military spending.

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