U.S. Ports Stand to Benefit from FY2018 Budget
The U.S. House and Senate are close to agreement on a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill for FY2018, just ahead of a Friday deadline that would require them to pass a stopgap budget to avoid another government shutdown.
The long-awaited passage of a full FY2018 budget would be good news for the U.S. military, which depends upon annual appropriations measures (rather than short extensions) for its procurement programs. The House version of the bill, which passed Thursday, adds $61 billion to the defense budget over last year's levels, including a $16 billion increase in R&D funding and a $25 billion increase for procurement.
The House version also contains important provisions for American ports. The House agreed to $340 million in additional funding for the Army Corps of Engineers (above the agency's budget request) for harbor dredging and port maintenance. Transportation grant funding for the "TIGER" program would be tripled to $1.5 billion. And U.S. Customs and Border Patrol would have the funds to hire over 300 more officers for ports of entry across the country.
The bill next goes to the Senate, and majority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell has filed to end debate so that the body can move forward quickly towards a vote ahead of the Friday deadline. However, the chamber's rules mean that a vote could be held up by any individual senator. The government briefly shut down last month after Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) objected to the growing federal deficit, and Sen. Paul said Thursday that he would not vote for the 2,200 page House bill without reading it first. "If they insist on voting, I will vote no because it spends to much [sic] and there’s just too little time to read the bill and let everyone know what’s actually in it," he wrote in a social media post. "No one has read it."
While President Donald Trump has indicated that he will sign the budget into law if it passes the Senate, his administration has also criticized the bill's contents. “A strong military and secure border are the centerpieces of the administration’s efforts to keep the nation safe,” the White House said in a statement. “[The House budget], the product of negotiation and compromise, includes wasteful spending increases in order to secure bipartisan support.”