GOP spending bill has mixed reviews – even among fellow Republicans

The legislation would prevent the government from shutting down this weekend and buy several months for the new Congress and incoming Trump administration to wrap up more than $1 trillion worth of unfinished agency budget bills.

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivers remarks to reporters after the weekly Republican caucus policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. December 6, 2016.

WASHINGTON — Republicans controlling Congress Tuesday unveiled $10 billion in supplemental war funding and $4 billion more for disaster relief for Louisiana and other states as key additions to must-pass legislation to keep the government running into next spring.

The bill would also deliver $170 million in long-delayed help for Flint, Michigan, to fix its lead-tainted water system.

The legislation would prevent the government from shutting down this weekend and buy several months for the new Congress and incoming Trump administration to wrap up more than $1 trillion worth of unfinished agency budget bills.

Democrats complained the GOP measure shortchanged New York City by giving it just $7 million to cover police overtime and other security costs for President-elect Donald Trump, who lives in midtown Manhattan. And they complained that a provision to help retired Appalachian coal miners keep their health benefits for a few months was woefully inadequate.

The bill attracted attention as the final legislative locomotive to leave the station before Congress closes shop this year. Nothing else on Capitol Hill's agenda had the power to tow other unfinished legislation into law.

The White House and Main St. Republicans were denied in a bid to revive the Export-Import Bank's ability to approve export financing deals exceeding $10 million. But the trucking lobby appeared poised to win permanent relief from recent Transportation Department rules mandating longer rest breaks for long-haul carriers.

Democrats complained about a proposal to help speed a congressional waiver required next year to confirm retired Gen. James Mattis as secretary of defense. Mattis who would otherwise be ineligible to serve because of a law that requires a seven-year wait for former members of the military to serve in the post. A late change aimed at mollifying Democrats would maintain the 60-vote filibuster threshold to deliver the waiver.

One major dispute centered on protecting health care benefits for about 16,000 retired coal miners facing the loss of coverage on Dec. 31.

The measure had divided coal-state Republicans. Several supported longer-term legislation tackling the loss of health care, but GOP leaders — including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky — were wary of bailing out unionized workers.

McConnell said Tuesday that the temporary health care help for miners would be part of the spending bill, though Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., protested that McConnell's fix would only last for a few months vowed to push for a permanent solution.

Manchin vowed to block any Senate effort to move quickly on unrelated legislation until the miners' fight was settled.

"Over two years ago, we promised the retired coal miners of America — we promised them and most of their families — and these are a lot of widows now — and we promise them that they would have their health care benefits, which were guaranteed to them, and their pensions," Manchin said.

At issue are health benefits for retirees whose companies declared bankruptcy in recent years.

The Obama White House had requested $35 million to reimburse New York City for providing security for Trump and New York Democrats were upset when just $7 million was made available.

"Republicans' failure to fully reimburse NYPD for its efforts to protect President-elect Trump is beyond disappointing," said Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., who called the $7 million just a "down payment on the way to making New York City whole."

The overall measure would keep the government running through April 28.

Lawmakers are again denying themselves a cost-of-living pay hike that's fallen out of favor.

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