No government shutdown after president signs bipartisan budget

The two-year deal gives the 2020 Census and veterans’ health care funds.

President Donald J. Trump signed a $2.7 trillion budget into law this afternoon in Washington. The White House said the deal “suspends the public debt limit” until after the election.

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019 increases the country’s borrowing limit and “raises domestic military spending by more than $320 billion compared to existing law over the next two fiscal years,” reported The Hill.

The bill passed the House last week and Senate voted this week 67-28.

According to The Associated Press, the deal “eliminates the prospect of an October government shutdown.”

Remember the deal was supposed to be signed earlier this year, but an agreement couldn’t be made because Democrats objected to provisions that would have paid for the construction of a border wall.

The government shutdown hit Indian Country hard, especially the Indian Health Service. It also didn’t do well for the tribal nations with high unemployment rates. A study by the Center for Indian Country Development of the Federal Reserve Bank said, “All told, the federal government shutdown is affecting Indian Country in substantial and unique ways.”

It was the longest shutdown in history: 35 days. It started Dec. 22, 2018 and ended on Jan. 25, 2019.

(RELATED: A break from Washington's budget drama)

This legislation is basically an overall spending plan, a limit on federal spending. Now Congress must enact specific spending bills through the normal appropriations process for each federal agency.

Robert Bixby, president of The Concord Coalition, disapproves of the “fiscally irresponsible” budget.

“Raising the 2020 and 2021 spending caps by more than $300 billion and then allowing the caps to expire is a bizarre reaction to recent projections that budget deficits will exceed $1 trillion as soon as this year,” he said. “If there is any good news, it is that President Trump and Congress have at least lowered the chances of another government shutdown and suspended the debt limit for two years, postponing for now the dangerous prospect of default.”

“The bad news is that the agreement was purchased at the cost of increasing the deficit and raising the debt from their already elevated levels. Less than a quarter of the proposed new spending would be offset. This type of ‘bipartisan cooperation’ is all too familiar and ignores the economic harm that will inevitably come from failing to put the budget on a sustainable path,” he said.

Justin Bogie, senior policy analyst in fiscal affairs at The Heritage Foundation, says this agreement by Trump was irresponsible and the nation “could all soon pay a heavy price” for it.

He said that suspending the debt limit should be a wake-up call about the spending habits.

“Burdening younger and future generations with yet more debt should be a subject of series debate, not a casual add-on to a budget-busting deal,” he wrote. “The only responsible approach to raising the debt limit would be to first enact spending cuts and budget reforms that would move the U.S. budget onto a sustainable path. Everything else is just taking out a new credit card.”

The budget deal boosts funding for non-defense discretionary programs by $56.5 billion but it’s still a “historic low,” according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. It’s still a better deal than doing sequestration cuts or freezing the non-defense funds which would impact decennial census and veterans’ health care.

“Moreover, the levels that the deal provides for non-defense appropriations will enable lawmakers not only to provide the necessary funds for the census and the Mission Act, but also to increase support for key underfunded priorities such as child care, low-income housing, environmental protection, and IRS enforcement, to name a few,” the center said.

Now that Trump signs the deal, it gives Native American veterans a chance at obtaining health care, particularly those who live in urban areas. Rep. Ro Khanna, D-California, and Sen. Tom Udall D-New Mexico, introduced a bill today to improve healthcare access for Native veterans.

Federal law does not allow Native veterans residing in urban Indian health centers to receive reimbursement from federally-operated and tribally-operated Indian Health Service facilities.

American Indian and Alaska Native veterans are also “more likely to lack health insurance and to have a disability, service-connected or otherwise, than veterans of other races,” according to the National Indian Health Board.

“Urban Indian organizations, like the Indian Health Center of Santa Clara Valley, fill a crucial gap in the health care system for Native Americans that do not have access to more remote facilities run by the Indian Health Service,” said Khanna.

“All veterans deserve to have access to the benefits and services they have earned, but limitations in the law are preventing Native American veterans from seeing providers at urban Indian health centers,” said Rep. Deb Haaland, Laguna Pueblo and co-chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus. “We’re putting a bill forward that will ensure Indian health programs are eligible for reimbursements from the VA, so that Native American veterans get the services they need in a timely manner while giving the VA more options to deliver services in a timely manner.” 

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Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, Diné, is the Washington editor for Indian Country Today based in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter: @jourdanbb. Email: jbennett-begaye@indiancountrytoday.com

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