US House approves $1.4 trillion spending deal to avert shutdown, sends to Senate

Reuters , Tuesday 17 Dec 2019

The US House of Representatives on Tuesday approved a $1.4 trillion spending package to avert a partial government shutdown that also would raise the US tobacco purchasing age to 21 and permanently repeal several of the Affordable Care Act's taxes.

The spending package now heads to the Senate, where lawmakers aim to approve it before current government funding runs out on Saturday, avoiding the type of messy budget battle that resulted in a record 35-day interruption of government services late last year and early this year.

The legislation, worked out between leading lawmakers and the Trump administration, denies President Donald Trump the full $5 billion he requested to help build his signature wall along the US-Mexico border, keeping funding static at $1.37 billion for border barriers.

Most Democrats and some Republicans support a mix of improved physical barriers at the border, along with a combination of high-tech surveillance equipment and patrols by all-terrain vehicles and horses.

They have mostly rejected Trump's calls for at least $24 billion over the long run to build his much-touted wall, which he originally said Mexico would finance.

Mexico rejected that idea. The wall's price tag could escalate as the federal government is forced to acquire private lands for construction.

The crackdown on youth smoking, by changing the minimum age for cigarettes, vaping devices and other tobacco purchases to 21 from the current 18, would give the US Food and Drug Administration six months to develop regulations.

The agency would then have three years to work with states on implementing the change.

The largest expenditure in the bill is for the Department of Defense, which would get a total of $738 billion for this year, $22 billion more than last year.

It does not include big-ticket benefit programs like Social Security and Medicare, which are funded separately.

The massive spending package comes as the US government is expected to have a higher-than-average budget deficits over the coming decade, fueled in part by diminished revenue resulting from the 2017 Republican tax overhaul.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects the US government will have a budget deficit of $960 billion in the 2019 fiscal year, and average annual deficits of $1.2 trillion over the 2020 and 2029 fiscal years. 

Short link: