World

US Congress reaches S$1.4 trillion deal to prevent government shutdown

No money for border wall as US parties 
agree on plan to avoid government shutdown

WASHINGTON: Negotiators in the US Congress reached a deal late on Sunday on about US$1 trillion (S$1.4 trillion) in federal funding that would avert a government shutdown later this week, while handing President Donald Trump a downpayment on his promised military build-up.

The full House of Representatives and Senate must still approve the bipartisan pact, which would be the first major legislation to clear Congress since Mr Trump became president.

The funds, which should have been locked into place seven months ago with the start of fiscal 2017 on Oct 1, would pay for federal programmes from airport and border security operations to soldiers' pay, medical research and education.

"The agreement will move the needle forward on conservative priorities and will ensure that the essential functions of the federal government are maintained," said Ms Jennifer Hing, a spokesman for Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee.

RESOLVED

If it is not enacted by Friday midnight, federal agencies would have to lay off hundreds of thousands of workers and require others to continue on the job providing law enforcement and other essential operations without pay until the funding dispute in Congress is resolved.

"This agreement is a good agreement for the American people and takes the threat of a government shutdown off the table," Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.

This agreement is a good agreement for the American people and takes the threat of a government shutdown off the table. Senate democratic leader Chuck Schumer

A senior congressional aide said the Pentagon would win a US$12.5 billion increase in defence spending for the fiscal year that ends on Sept 30, with the possibility of an additional US$2.5 billion contingent on Mr Trump delivering a plan to Congress for defeating the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

He had requested US$30 billion more in military funds for this year after campaigning hard on a defence build-up during the election.

Other White House initiatives were rejected by the Republican and Democratic negotiators, including money for a wall on the US-Mexico border. Instead, negotiators settled on US$1.5 billion more for border security, including more money for new technology and repairing existing infrastructure, said the aide who did not want to be identified.

The Trump administration had earlier backed away from a threat to end federal subsidies for low-income people to get health insurance through Obamacare, which Mr Trump had pledged to repeal.

Republicans are struggling over a repeal and replacement plan for former president Barack Obama's healthcare law, and it was unclear whether they would be able to bring such legislation to the House floor soon.

While Republicans control the House, Senate and White House, Democrats scored other significant victories in the deal.

Puerto Rico would get an emergency injection of US$295 million in additional funding for its Medicaid health insurance programme for the poor, said the aide. The impoverished island, a US territory, is facing a severe Medicaid funding shortfall. - REUTERS

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