Congress this week will start taking steps toward a vote on legislation that includes $20 billion in new infrastructure spending, which would help fulfill a major campaign promise of President Trump to start making infrastructure improvements around the country.
The broad agreement reached by Senate Republicans and Democrats on Wednesday would allow an increase in domestic spending above the current caps by $37 billion over two years. Lawmakers said $20 billion of that would be for infrastructure, and another $6 billion to fight the nationwide opioid epidemic.
To get there, the Senate hopes to pass a bill this week that would extend federal spending for six weeks, and suspend the debt ceiling for one year.
While Senate leaders cheered the deal, one immediate hurdle was how House Republicans would view the plan to significantly increase spending, and allow unfettered borrowing by Congress with no debt ceiling in the way.
"I won't have any part of it," said Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., complaining about the nation's debt.
According to House Republican lawmakers who were briefed on the matter Wednesday afternoon, the long-term deal would raise defense spending by $54 billion above the caps.
But before the larger bill is considered, the Senate is hoping to push through a vote to extend federal spending through March 23, and suspend the debt ceiling. That time will be used to write the bigger bill.
The provision to suspend the debt ceiling comes at the urging of Treasury officials, who said the nation’s borrowing limit will be reached in March.
The short-term measure will also include a provision to form a select bipartisan, bicameral committee to examine the “dysfunction” in the congressional spending process, which over the past several years has required an endless string of short-term bills to fund the federal government and numerous spending showdowns that have either resulted in, or threatened, partial government closures. A report would be due by year's end “on how we can fix this broken process once and for all on House and Senate budget appropriations," said Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y.
And, it will include tens of billions of dollars for disaster relief, lawmakers said, although the exact amount has not been determined yet.
The short-term deal was announced as Senate Democrats and Republicans prepare to send to the House their framework for a long-term spending framework and a two-year accord on budget caps. The six weeks are needed to keep the government funded while they craft the larger spending deal, GOP leaders said.
Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., a member of the whip team, said GOP dissent will mean Democrats may be required to pass the short-term bill. More than a dozen Democrats voted for the last short-term bill, and Collins said he expects some will cross over and vote on it this time as well, despite opposition from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Pelosi said early Wednesday she opposes the deal because it does not include a provision to protect so-called Dreamers from deportation. She spent more than four hours on the House floor to argue in favor of an immediate agreement on immigration.
But Republicans dismissed the idea that it would be turned away this week.
“I think it’s headed in the right direction,” Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., told the Washington Examiner. “I’m optimistic about it.”