WASHINGTON — The House is debating a $788 billion spending measure that combines funding for the departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs, and Energy, along with money for construction of three segments of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The security-focused measure is the first spending bill for the budget year that begins Oct. 1 to pass either the House or Senate.
The measure is expected to pass the House on Friday mostly along party lines. Highlights include:
BOOSTING THE PENTAGON
The measure is anchored by a $659 billion defense funding bill that increases funding for the core Pentagon budget and emergency war accounts by $60 billion over current-year levels and exceeds Trump’s request by $28 billion. The huge increase is a win for GOP defense hawks, with the bulk of the increase going into procurement of new weapons systems, including 84 next-generation F-35 fighters and three ships above the president’s request. War funding exceeds President Donald Trump’s request by $10 billion.
BUILDING THE WALL
Almost $1.6 billion is included for three segments of border wall and fencing on the U.S. border with Mexico, including $784 million for 32 miles of new border fencing and $498 million for 28 miles of levee wall in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas; another $251 million would building back-up fencing in the heavily fortified San Diego area. The administration is still devising its plans for the remainder of the multi-billion-dollar project and is reviewing proposals by contractors.
INCREASES FOR VETERANS
Includes $78.3 billion for the VA, almost $4 billion above current spending. Veterans’ medical care alone takes up $69 billion, enough to treat about 7 million patients. Funding is also included for longtime projects to modernize VA medical records and reduced a backlog of VA disability claims.
GOP ENERGY PRIORITIES
The measure cuts spending on renewable energy programs favored by Democrats by almost $1 billion while rejecting most of Trump’s proposed cuts to fossil fuels. Nuclear power would be largely shielded from cuts as well. The bill also includes an almost $1 billion increase for nuclear weapons activities at the Energy Department to modernize the nuclear arsenal. It also seeks clear the way to open the Yucca Mountain nuclear repository, which has been the subject of a bitter battle for decades.
CAPITOL HILL HOUSEKEEPING
Another $3.6 billion would fund Capitol Hill’s own operating budget, including additional funding for lawmakers’ security. It would also continue a longstanding freeze on lawmakers’ salaries at $174,000 per year.