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From Border Security To Tobacco Age, Both Parties Tout Key Wins In Spending Deal

"These are really good bills," House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., seen here in June, said last Thursday. Republican lawmakers are also touting wins.
Alex Wong
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"These are really good bills," House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., seen here in June, said last Thursday. Republican lawmakers are also touting wins.

Updated at on Dec. 17 at 2:30 p.m. ET

Congressional leaders unveiled two massive spending measures and touted key wins in the $1.3 trillion spending agreement to fund the government for the remainder of the 2020 fiscal year just days before a critical government shutdown deadline.

The House passed the spending bills with bipartisan support on Tuesday. The Senate is expected to approve both bills later this week and send them to the president for his signature.

The measure boosts funding for key Democratic and Republican initiatives, such as election security, 2020 census efforts, border security funding, research to address gun violence and 3.1% pay raises for servicemembers and federal workers. It also includes a new measure to raise the age of tobacco use to 21 and repeal the so-called "Cadillac taxes," or health taxes on employer plans that have drawn bipartisan opposition, congressional aides said.

Read the text of the packages hereand here.

"These bills are the product of bipartisan bicameral compromise," House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., said before the House Rules panel Monday evening. "While there are some things I would have done differently had I written these bills alone, I am very proud of the work we have completed together. These bills raise funding for critical, national priorities."

The plan would permanently fund the government through Sept. 30, 2020 after months of operating off temporary budget measures known as continuing resolutions to keep the lights on.

Lawmakers have struggled to get far on negotiations in recent months as a result of fights over border security funding and the House impeachment inquiry.

The current continuing resolution will expire Friday evening — Federal agencies run out of money at midnight on Friday unless Congress passes the deal and the president signs it. Lawmakers had weighed the potential of approving another CR if they couldn't reach an agreement for the larger spending measures. White House Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has met with Lowey, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala. and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as part of the spending talks in recent weeks.

On Thursday afternoon, Lowey and others emerged from Pelosi's office to claim victory in a new agreement to avert a government shutdown.

On Monday, Pelosi touted wins in the agreement.

"All Democrats can take great pride in this strong appropriations package, which achieves critical victories for the health, financial security and well-being of the American people," Pelosi said in a statement Monday evening. "With this agreement, Democrats are protecting the quality, affordable health care of millions by permanently repealing health care taxes and preventing the President from waging further health care sabotage."

Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and others also touted a new age requirement of 21 for tobacco use. McConnell, a Republican who hails from the tobacco state of Kentucky, joined forces with Sens. Tim Kaine, D-Va., Todd Young, R-Ind., and Mitt Romney, R-Utah in a bipartisan push earlier this year for the new age requirement.

"Stories of vaping related illnesses and deaths — especially among young people — have stunned Kentucky and the nation," McConnell said in a statement Monday evening. "I'm grateful to the communities, the health advocates and my fellow elected officials, including President Trump and Senators Todd Young and Mitt Romney, who have joined Senator Kaine and me to address this urgent crisis and keep these dangerous products away from our children."

The package also includes funding for all 12 regular spending bills under a $1.3 trillion topline figure reached with a bipartisan budget agreement in July.

In addition to the provisions boasted by Democrats and the GOP like border security funding and gun violence research, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., touted a provision in the agreement to secure pensions and health care for nearly 100,000 coal miners and their families.

"I want to thank my colleagues in Congress, Democrats and Republicans, for making this a truly bipartisan effort," Manchin said in a statement. "I look forward to voting for this crucial bill later this week and sending it to the President so he can sign it into law and provide some well-deserved peace of mind to these great Americans that have done everything this country has asked of them."

A Democratic aide said the measure includes $7.6 billion for the 2020 census count ($1.4 billion more than proposed by the Trump administration), $425 million for election security grants and $25 million for gun violence research through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health — the first such funding in more than 20 years.

A Republican aide said the measure includes a $22 billion boost over 2019 fiscal year spending levels for the military, a 3.1% pay raise for servicemembers and $1.375 billion for border security funding. The president had previously demanded $8.6 billion for the border wall.

Other provisions Democrats are touting:

  • $41.7 billion for lifesaving medical research at the National Institutes of Health, a $2.6 billion increase from the year prior;
  • Boosts state opioid response grants with $1.5 billion in funding;
  • Funds $9 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency, an increase of $208 million, and
  • New funding levels for Head Start, Child Care & Development Block Grant and Title I schools.
  • Other provisions Republicans are touting:

  • Funds the implementation of the VA Mission Act to provide veteran care;
  • Maintains transfer authorities for border security and immigration enforcement;
  • Retains pro-life and pro-Second Amendment policy riders from 2019 fiscal year, and
  • Doesn't include new funding or language for family planning or reproductive health.
  • Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Corrected: December 16, 2019 at 12:00 AM EST
    A previous version of this story said Sen. Todd Young is from Ohio. He is from Indiana.
    Claudia Grisales is a congressional reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk.