US House passes $1.1 trillion budget measure

In a week dominated by maneuvering over the health care legislation — which was thought to be dead just over a week ago — the House Wednesday passed a $1 trillion-plus spending measure that will keep the government open for business at least through September.

The bill, which includes increased money for Defense, will be felt in Ohio, from the retiree benefits for coal miners to additional money to fight opioid addiction. There is money targeted for cleanup of the abandoned Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant and of Lake Erie, where toxic algae caused a temporary shutdown of Toledo’s water supply three years ago.

Ohio’s congressional delegation was virtually split down the middle on the bill: All four Democrats voted for it, along with five Republicans, while seven Republicans were opposed.

Nationally, Democrats applauded the bipartisan vote, which passed 309-118, even as they decried an intensified effort by House Republican leaders and President Donald Trump to save the long-promised health care legislation. That effort appeared to get a boost Wednesday when changes to the plan brought two pivotal Republicans back on board.

Reps. Fred Upton of Michigan and Billy Long of Missouri emerged from a White House meeting with Trump saying they could now support the bill, thanks to the addition of $8 billion over five years to help people with pre-existing conditions.

But it’s still not clear if there are enough votes for passage, and Democrats Wednesday said the flipped votes amounted to theatrics.

Upton “has always been a yes,” Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said. “People will say ‘I am a no and give me some fake reason to make it look like the bill is better.’”

The latest iteration of the GOP bill would let states escape a requirement under Obama’s law that insurers charge healthy and seriously ill customers the same rates. Overall, the legislation would cut the Medicaid program for the poor, eliminate Obama’s fines for people who don’t buy insurance and provide generally smaller subsidies.

The American Medical Association, AARP and other consumer and medical groups remain opposed. The AMA issued a statement saying Upton’s changes “tinker at the edges without remedying the fundamental failing of the bill — that millions of Americans will lose their health insurance as a direct result.”

Congressional analysts estimate that 24 million more Americans would be uninsured by 2026 if the GOP bill becomes law, including 14 million by next year. Even if Republicans secure a win in the House, the Senate is expected to make major changes.

Unlike the health care legislation, the spending bill had support from both sides of the aisle. In Ohio, Republicans Mike Turner, R-Dayton; Bill Johnson, R-Marietta; David Joyce, R-Russell Twp.; Steve Stivers, R-Upper Arlington; and and Pat Tiberi, R-Genoa Twp., all backed the bill, along with the state’s four Democratic House members.

Opposed were Jim Jordan, R-Urbana; Warren Davidson, R-Troy; Steve Chabot, R-Cincinnati; Jim Renacci, R-Wadsworth; Bob Latta, R-Bowling Green; Brad Wenstrup, R-Cincinnati; and Bob Gibbs, R-Lakeville.

Jordan said he opposed the bill because it did nothing that Republicans said they would do during the last election cycle. Republicans delayed passing a bill from December to April to May under the premise of passing a bill that included GOP spending priorities such as a border wall and defunding Planned Parenthood.

In the end, they got none of that.

“Why do a four-month bill if we weren’t going to fight for the things we campaigned on, the things the voters elected us to do?” Jordan said. “It makes no sense.

He also said money for Defense in the bill should have been offset by a reduction in spending elsewhere.

Turner said he voted for the bill because it continues “the work the Obama administration did not get done as they were walking out the door.”

The bill includes increases in Defense “over what Obama would have included for 2017, and that’s good for national security, and it’s good for Wright-Patterson Air Force Base,” Turner said.

Because of opposition from conservative members of Congress, Democrats were needed to pass the measure, even though Republicans control both the White House and Congress. That meant Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer were powerful participants in the talks and they drove a hard bargain. Schumer has crowed over the outcome in a series of interviews, and some Republicans Wednesday were characterizing the vote as less than a win for the party.

“From my point of view, we pretty well got our clock cleaned,” Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said.

The mammoth, 1,665-page measure now heads to the Senate, which is expected to approve it. Although Trump complained over Twitter about the need for Democratic votes on the bill and suggested that a “good ‘shutdown’” might be in order, he promised to sign the bill, citing the increased money it provides to the military.

- Erica Werner and Alan Fram of the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Programs in spending bill that affect Ohio

  • Great Lakes: $300 million this year to continue cleanup of the Great Lakes.
  • Coal Miner Health Benefits: $1.3 billion nationally during next decade for 22,000 retired miners and families, of which 332 are in Ohio.
  • Drug addiction and recovery: $500 million this year nationally to finance state programs to combat addiction to drugs such as opioids.
  • Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act: $217 million nationally for this year to finance a bill co-authored by Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, to finance federal programs to deal with those who have abused drugs.
  • Piketon cleanup: $274 million this year to continue the cleanup at the abandoned Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant, which was closed in 2010.
  • Sex assault in the military: $296 million nationally this year for sexual assault and prevention
  • Appalachian Regional Commission: $152 million this year, which is $6 million more than last year.
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: $8 billion nationally this year, which is $81 million less than last year.
  • National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities: $150 million nationally this year, which is $2 million more than last year.
  • National Institutes of Health: $34.1 billion nationally this year, which is $2 billion more than last year.
  • Low-Income Home Energy Assistance: $3.4 billion nationally, which is the same as last year.

— Jessica Wehrman and Jack Torry of the Washington Bureau

About the Author