Bipartisan Budget Plan Pushes Back Trump Agenda

Funding for Obamacare and Planned Parenthood, but not a wall on the Mexican border.

By Robin Wallace

The Trump administration avoided a government shutdown Sunday with a $1 trillion spending plan that has Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle heralding a bipartisan compromise. The plan, which Congress has until Friday to pass, fails to implement most of President Trump’s signature proposals, such as a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The wall was not the only casualty to the weekend’s negotiations. Congress also torpedoed a White House proposal to withhold federal grants from sanctuary cities, so-called because of their refusal to report undocumented workers to federal immigration authorities. As perhaps a consolation prize to the president, Congress boosted defense spending and funding for border security, but restricted the use of border security funds to improving existing infrastructure and technology. The president got an increase in the number of beds at federal detention centers, and technology funding will include an electronic system for employers to verify the immigration status of workers.

The bill, which avoids the shutdown looming this week and funds the government through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, also repudiates Trump’s agenda by continuing funding for Planned Parenthood and temporarily continuing the funding of government subsidies for people purchasing insurance through the Affordable Care Act. Democrats lost their bid to have the Obamacare subsidies permanently funded. In other nods to health care, the budget provides $295 million to help Puerto Rico make Medicaid payments, $100 million to battle the nation’s opioid addiction epidemic and health care funding for Appalachian coal miners.

The bill also provides a $2 billion increase to the National Institutes of Health, boosting research into biomedical innovation, Alzheimer’s disease, brain mapping technology, antibiotic resistance, and the Moonshot cancer cure initiative launched by former President Barack Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden. Trump had long proposed cutting the NIH’s budget by $1 billion.

The bipartisan budget effort also pushed back on Trump’s efforts to shut down key NASA programs in 2018 and his proposed cuts to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The health-science communities, which had been bracing for the axe to fall during the seven-month budget standoff, reacted to the plan with celebratory relief.

While Democratic opposition to Trump’s initially proposed budget had been expected, Congressional Republicans appeared to have no taste for a plan that the right had celebrated as a blueprint for conservatism. For example, the push to preserve NASA funding was spearheaded by Texas Republican Rep. John Culberson. Health care funding for retired coal miners – a complicated issue due to the insolvency of a labor union for a waning profession­ – was a deal breaker for Appalachian lawmakers.