Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP
Democrats have sort of reached a deal on their gigantic proposed $1.3 trillion bill to fund the federal government through the next fiscal year. But it’s a compromise that has struggled to lock down support.
“There are a number of members in the moderate and fiscally conservative wings of the caucus who say that we’re not going to allow a bill that has no chance of being signed by the president,” said Democratic leader Chuck Schumer.
You could see why. It involves a variety of social programs that are hugely popular among Democrats and some suburban and rural areas where Trump won in November. The package also pays for defence and other priorities, meaning it has to have more bipartisan support.
Republicans have not liked the inclusion of an estimated $700 billion in financial aid for hurricane-impacted regions in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and other states. Senate Republicans strongly objected to adding protection for the 700,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigrants who were brought to the US illegally as children. Democrats have agreed to not use Dreamers as a bargaining chip and will not use the bill for that purpose.
“There is going to be a very strict readout and all sides will know where each person stands,” Schumer said.
After the 845-page package of spending, revenue and deficit-financed policy measures got whittled down to the size of a moderate’s phone bill, Democrats decided to force Republicans to cough up a long list of pet programs, too. The list was long enough that it was renamed the $1.3 trillion government-funded spending bill.
“We are talking about billions, billions, of dollars of things, all over the place,” said Schumer, a New York Democrat.
Many of the policies included are probably popular with average voters across the political spectrum – like funding for international disasters, foreign aid, medical research and student loans. But there is one category of policy Democrats have campaigned for years: expanding health coverage for those who have coverage through the Affordable Care Act.
“These programs are popular with the American people,” Schumer said. “And President Trump is holding hostage the health care of hundreds of thousands of Americans.”