By ANDREW TAYLOR
WASHINGTON (AP) — Negotiators on a $1.3 trillion government spending bill dropped protections for so-called Dreamer immigrants and gave President Donald Trump only a partial victory on paying for his U.S.-Mexico border wall as talks entered their final stage on Wednesday.
A meeting of top congressional leaders produced tentative accords on two tax provisions and a decision to strengthen the criminal-background-check system for gun purchases. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said an official agreement on the sweeping measure would most likely come “very soon.”
GOP aides said that Trump would win $1.6 billion for a border wall and physical barriers along the border, which would be enough for construction following older wall designs and for repairs to existing segments. But Trump would be denied a more recent, far larger request for $25 billion for the wall project. Democrats said a mere $641 million would go to new segments of fencing and walls that double as levees.
Although agreeing to set aside $1.6 billion for the wall, Democrats were able to prevent the money from going to pay for any of the new prototypes that Trump recently visited in San Diego. Negotiators also rejected Trump’s plans to hire hundreds of new Border Patrol and immigration enforcement agents, congressional aides said.
Negotiators planned to release the massive government-wide spending bill later in the day in the hope of having it passed before a deadline at midnight Friday, when the government will shutdown if a new plan isn’t in place.
A senior administration official said the White House is generally happy with the emerging deal. The person said the plan makes progress on the president’s top priorities, citing its large funding increase for the military, border security measures and money to fight the opioid epidemic.
The top four leaders of both House and Senate met Wednesday and emerged saying they basically had a deal.
“We’re finalizing,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told reporters, saying the bill would shortly be made public. “We’re in a good place.”
The bill would give Trump a huge budget increase for the military, while Democrats would cement wins on infrastructure and other domestic programs that they had failed to get under President Barack Obama. It would also pay for a 2.4 percent pay raise for military personnel.
As expected, the plan won’t renew protections for young Dreamer immigrants facing possible deportation. It also won’t provide subsidies to insurers who cut costs for low-earning customers. And it wouldn’t provide federal payments to insurance carriers to help them afford to cover their costliest clients.
Another part of the deal would remove an earmark protecting money for a rail tunnel proposed to be built under the Hudson River. That project is a top priority of Trump’s most powerful Democratic rival, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. The project could still receive funding, however, and a Schumer aide said the project was likely to win well more than half of the $900 million sought for Gateway this year under rules governing various Department of Transportation accounts.
The proposal on the table would provide a big funding increase for the Pentagon — $80 billion over current limits — bringing the military budget to $700 billion and giving GOP defense hawks a long-sought victory.
“We made a promise to the country that we would rebuild our military. Aging equipment, personnel shortages, training lapses, maintenance lapses — all of this has cost us,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. “With this week’s critical funding bill we will begin to reverse that damage.”
Domestic accounts would get a generous 10 percent increase on average as well, awarding Democrats the sort of spending increases they had sought but never secured during the Obama administration.
Both parties touted the $4.6 billion proposed for fighting the nation’s opioid addiction epidemic, a $3 billion increase. More than $2 billion would go toward strengthening school safety through grants for training, security measures and treatment for the mentally ill. Medical research at the National Institutes of Health, a longstanding bipartisan priority, would receive a record $3 billion increase, taking it up to $37 billion.
Community-development block grants, which are enormously popular among mayors and other local officials, would receive an additional $2.4 billion, taking them up to $5.2 billion, despite being marked for elimination in Trump’s budget plan. And an Obama Administration transportation grant program known as TIGER would see its budget tripled to $1.5 billion. Head Start for preschoolers would get a $610 boost, and an additional $2.4 billion would go for child-care grants.
“We have worked to restore and in many cases increase investments in education, health care, opioids, NIH, child care, college affordability and other domestic and military priorities,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., a central negotiator on the measure.
Agencies historically unpopular with Republicans, such as the IRS, appear likely to get increases too, in part to prepare for carrying out of the Republicans’ recently passed tax measure. The Environmental Protection Agency, always a GOP target, would have its budget frozen at $8 billion.