WASHINGTON — Lawmakers pushed to enact a massive budget deal Thursday along with a stopgap temporary measure to prevent a government shutdown at midnight. GOP leaders tried to shore up support among conservatives for a plan that would shower the Pentagon with the billions they favor but also balloon the deficits they despise.
"It's going to need bipartisan support. We are going to deliver our share of support," House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt. "Our members who are focused on the military are very happy where we landed with that."
The measure was a triumph for Republican allies of the Pentagon and for Democrats seeking more spending on infrastructure and fighting opioid abuse.
But it represented a bitter defeat for many liberal Democrats who sought to use the party's leverage on the budget to resolve the plight of immigrant "Dreamers" who face deportation after being brought to the U.S. illegally as children. The deal does not address immigration. And some tea party Republicans shredded the measure as a budget-buster.
Beyond the $300 billion figure for the military, the agreement adds $89 billion in overdue disaster aid for hurricane-slammed Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, a politically charged increase in the government's borrowing cap and a grab bag of health and tax provisions. Cotton growers and dairy farmers would get relief courtesy of the bipartisan leadership of the Senate Appropriations Committee, while popular funding for community health centers would be extended for two years, among myriad health provisions.
"I love bipartisanship, as you know," said Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. "But the problem is the only time we discover bipartisanship is when we spend more money."
Senate leaders pressed to approve the measure Thursday and send it to the House for a confirming vote before the government begins to shut down at midnight.
While Senate Democrats celebrated the rare moment of bipartisanship — Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called it a "genuine breakthrough" — progressives and activists blasted them for leaving immigrants in limbo.
Top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi of California, herself a key architect of the budget plan, announced her opposition Wednesday morning and mounted a remarkable daylong speech on the House floor, trying to force GOP leaders in the House to promise a later vote on legislation to protect younger immigrants whose protection against deportation under former President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, will expire next month.
The White House backed the deal — despite President Donald Trump's outburst a day earlier that he'd welcome a government shutdown if Democrats didn't accept his immigration-limiting proposals.
Trump himself tweeted that the agreement "is so important for our great Military," and he urged both Republicans and Democrats to support it.
But the plan faced criticism from deficit hawks in his own party.
Combined with the party's December tax cut bill, the burst in military and other spending would put the GOP-controlled government on track for the first $1 trillion-plus deficits since President Barack Obama's first term and the aftermath of the most recent recession nine years ago.
"This budget deal shows just how broken the budget process is, that Congress thinks the only way to agree to a budget is to put hundreds of billions of dollars on the nation's credit card," said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Center for a Responsible Federal Budget, a Washington-based group that advocates for fiscal discipline.