Democrats’ budget priorities are winning


Associated Press

WASHINGTON

Under President Barack Obama and a GOP-controlled Congress, Capitol Hill Democrats had to scratch and claw for months to get tiny increases for domestic programs – or just hold them level.

The $1.3 trillion government-wide funding bill signed by President Donald Trump on Friday gave them almost everything they wanted.

Big fights in 2016 over $1.1 billion emergency funding to battle the Zika virus or $170 million to deal with lead-poisoned water in Flint, Mich., look pretty silly in retrospect.

Then, just keeping programs such as Head Start, child-care grants and heating subsidies for the poor funded at prior-year levels required monthslong battles – backstopped by Obama veto threats.

“You had to fight for every dollar,” said the senior Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy.

The times certainly have changed. Democrats have gone from battling for every scrap to reaping a full-course meal under Trump.

In the spending bill that rapidly passed last week, so-called TIGER grants – a transportation projects grant program created by Obama’s much-maligned 2009 economic stimulus bill – were tripled from $500 million to $1.5 billion. Grants for child-care programs got a $2.4 billion increase that almost doubled the size of the program. Mass-transit funding got a $1.1 billion increase, while Army Corps of Engineers water and flood control projects received a $789 million, 13 percent increase. There’s a more than $2 billion increase in spending for federal student aid and other higher education programs.

Trump said on Twitter that he had to “waste money on Dem giveaways” to get what he wanted on defense.

“Waste money on ‘Dem giveaways’? Would he call funding our heroic veterans ‘Dem giveaways’? Affordable childcare for hardworking middle-class families? Life-saving medical research, which creates jobs? The integrity of America’s elections?” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

The increases for non-defense programs – $52 billion more than current levels, or 10 percent – not only erased the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration but smashed through a more generous set of budget “caps” originally set under the 2011 budget pact.

Trump admitted Friday that Democrats had him over a barrel.

“There are a lot of things that we shouldn’t have had in this bill, but we were, in a sense, forced – if we want to build our military – we were forced to have,” Trump said Friday afternoon in a White House event after he signed the bill.

“We are growing the size of government at a break-neck pace,” said conservative Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C. “This is not the limited government conservatism our voters demand.”

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