WASHINGTON (AP) — The House passed a $788 billion spending bill Thursday that combines a $1.6 billion down payment for President Trump's controversial border wall with Mexico with a whopping budget increase for the Pentagon.
The 235-192 vote both eases a large backlog of unfinished spending bills and gives Trump and his House GOP allies political wins heading into the August recess. Challenging hurdles remain in front of the measure, however, which will meet with more powerful Democratic opposition in the Senate.
The 326-page measure would make good on longtime GOP promises to reverse an erosion in military readiness. It would give veterans programs a 5% increase and fund a 2.4% military pay raise.
GOP leaders used the popularity of the Pentagon and veterans programs to power through Trump's border wall.
"Every single dime the President requested to start building a wall on our southern border he's going to get," said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. "Most importantly, we're sending more to the VA to fix veterans' health care and reform outdated VA systems."
Still, a potential government shutdown battle over the U.S.-Mexico wall looms with Senate Democrats this fall. The generous defense spending increases also run afoul of strict spending limits set by an earlier budget law, and there's been no progress on a bipartisan budget deal that would be a prerequisite for the higher spending to take full effect.