Facing a Friday night deadline to avoid a second partial government shutdown, lawmakers in Congress and officials at the White House were busily digesting the details of a sweeping legislative funding package unveiled just after midnight, as House and Senate leaders prepared for swift action on the plan to finish budget work for Fiscal Year 2019.
While the headlines are all about the specifics of the agreement on how money in this deal can be spent on border security – and rightly so – Congress is actually voting on seven government funding bills all rolled into one giant legislative package.
Before we get to some of the details, here are your links:
The text of the “Consolidated Appropriations” bill for Fiscal Year 2019 can be found here.
There is also a separate document which goes into more explanatory detail about the spending bills.
Now, to some of what’s in this plan.
1. Over 1,600 pages for seven different funding bills. This package is more than just funding for border security, as it fully funds – through September 30 – a series of major departments and agencies, like Agriculture, Commerce, EPA, the Justice Department, NASA, the National Park Service, State Department, transportation programs, housing, and dozens of smaller federal programs. There are 12 funding bills which the Congress is supposed to approve each year by October 1, the start of the new fiscal year. The last time Congress got their work done on time was in 1996. For one negotiator involved in the border security negotiations, it was too much to swallow.
2. Congress overrides President Trump on federal pay raise. The plan specifically rolls back a plan approved by the President – during the partial government shutdown – blocking a scheduled pay raise for federal civilian employees. While members of the military will get a 2.6 percent pay hike, this plan gives regular federal workers an increase of 1.9 percent. One interesting note from this legislative package is that the pay raise gets extra mention only in the section of the bill about the Department of Homeland Security, where an increase in money is specifically set out a number of times in the report language for how much money will go to the 2019 pay raise for the Border Patrol, ICE, TSA, Coast Guard, Secret Service, FEMA, U.S. immigration services and more. It seemed to be an effort to make sure the Trump Administration couldn’t siphon that money away for other border security needs.
3. Death payment to the widow of Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC). As is custom in the House and Senate, when a lawmaker dies while in office, the Congress pays one year of salary to the surviving spouse of that member. Rep. Walter Jones died on Sunday – but a payment to him was right up on the fourth page of the bill, as his wife Jo Anne Jones will get a full year of salary from the Congress, $174,000. The funeral for the late Congressman is today (Thursday), and it’s possible lawmakers will return to the Capitol and then vote on this provision, and the rest of the massive funding bill.
4. Special highway designations at the end of the bill. If you make it all the way through the 1,159 pages of legislative text of this ‘Consolidated Appropriations’ bill, you will be rewarded with an interesting piece of legislative text on the transportation of sugar beets on a specific set of roads in Oregon. I’m not kidding. Section 423 of the Transportation and Housing Division of the bill amends Section 31112(c) of title 49, United States Code, which deals with “Property-carrying” limitations. In that section of federal law, there are special rules for very specific transportation issues on certain roads in Wyoming, Alaska, Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas. Now, Oregon will get its own special treatment section, dealing with the transportation of sugar beets, and exemptions from current truck length restrictions in federal law. If you go back a few pages to Section 421 of this part of the bill, you will also find changes in truck weight exemptions in Kentucky.
5. The last minute rush to finish. As usual, in the rush to get legislative and report language out to lawmakers and the public, the copy of the bill put out on the internet late Wednesday night included a series of instructions for the Government Publishing Office – when I was young, it was called the Government Printing Office – indicating what tables should go where, and how the bill needed to be formatted, etc. While there were no handwritten sections or additions, you can certainly find a number of little extras in the margins of the bill. Here’s my graphics collage: