WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump signed a $1.3 trillion spending bill Friday afternoon after threatening a veto hours before federal funding lapsed. It drastically increases defense and domestic spending.
Trump’s veto threat was the final step of a process marked by uncertainty. The House of Representatives passed the bill 256-167 around 1 p.m. Thursday, just 17 hours after the 2,232-page bill was released.
The Senate overcame a brief hold placed on the bill around midnight by an Idaho senator upset that the bill included language renaming an Idaho forest after the former governor of his state – an old political rival. The Senate passed the bill 65-32, sending it to the president’s desk just before 1 a.m. Friday. Trump signed it after a brief veto threat Friday afternoon.
Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat, voted in favor of the legislation funding the government through Sept. 30. Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican, opposed the bill, citing the cost.
“Instead of lurching from one short-term spending measure to another, this bill provides some much-needed certainty,” Bennet said in a news release.
The omnibus includes a restructuring of the Forest Service budget to fight wildfires that Bennet and Gardner pushed to be in the bill. It ends “fire borrowing,” a budgetary practice that forced the Forest Service to draw from other fire-prevention and non-fire funds in its yearly budget when fighting forest fires.
“Year after year, much of the West is forced to deal with horrible wildfires that burn millions of acres, and funding that should be applied to fire prevention and mitigation projects is instead spent by the Forest Service fighting these fires,” Gardner said in a news release when the bill was unveiled.
Since 2015, the Forest Service spent more than 50 percent of its annual budget fighting forest fires, raiding other forest-maintenance programs to pay for it.
The legislation freezes the 10-year average cost used to budget for wildfires from fiscal year 2015. In addition, the legislation establishes a disaster fund – more than $20 billion over 10 years – that can be accessed after the Forest Service exceeds the budgeted amount.
The omnibus bill also included $4 billion in federal funds to help states combat rampant opioid addiction, including $1 billion in State Opioid Response Grants. Colorado was granted a $7.8 million, two-year State Opioid Response Grant in April 2017. In an interview with The Durango Herald two weeks ago, Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, called the grant “far too little” to combat opioid addiction in Colorado.
“(This measure) includes the largest investment to date to help combat the opioid epidemic that is impacting communities in Colorado, and funds critical community health centers,” said Tipton, who voted for the bill.
Andrew Eversden is an intern for The Durango Herald and a student at American University in Washington, D.C.