US House approves federal spending bill


Washington, May 4: The US House of Representatives approved a $1.1 trillion spending bill for the rest of the 2017 fiscal year, and the measure will now receive the green light from the Senate, thus avoiding the partial shutdown of the federal government.

A stopgap spending measure was due to expire on Friday, Efe news reported.

Approved in a 309-118 vote late Wednesday, the bill also includes $295 million to help Puerto Rico with its health care assistance programs and funds for subsidies for the health care reform adopted by former President Barack Obama, something that the Republicans want to repeal and replace.

The bipartisan accord to approve the bill was achieved after weeks of tense negotiations, given that President Donald Trump had insisted on including funds to begin building a wall along the US-Mexico border.

Trump, however, withdrew those demands, temporarily at least, thus clearing the way for a final agreement.

The National Institutes of Health will receive a $2 billion funding increase – $34 billion in all – while the agreement protects 99 percent of the budget for the Environmental Protection Agency and increases funding for clean energy despite Trump’s intention to make cuts in both areas.

Meanwhile, it also includes a $1 billion fund to help counter potential famine in Africa and the Middle East and $600 million to combat the opioid addiction crisis in the US.

The text of the bill also undermines the controls imposed on Wall Street enshrined in the Dodd-Frank Act – which was approved after the 2008 financial crisis to better regulate the financial sector – as Republicans had wanted.

Another element the Republicans had favoured is that the bill increases funding by $1.5 billion for border security and by $15 billion for defence, although the President had requested double that amount.

US Congressional negotiators reached an agreement on the bill on Sunday night after weeks of tense but steady negotiations between Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill and White House officials, who debated over spending priorities but were equally determined to avoid a politically fraught government shutdown.