WASHINGTON — Congress passed a budget that will fund the government through Sept. 30 and bring millions more dollars to Hawaii, despite earlier threats of budget cuts from the Trump administration.
On Thursday, the House passed a $1.3 trillion spending bill that received significant bipartisan support, including from Hawaii’s two representatives, Tulsi Gabbard and Colleen Hanabusa.
The House voted 256 to 167 to approve the plan. The Senate followed suit just after midnight on Friday with a 65 to 32 vote that helped avoid a government shutdown.
Both of Hawaii’s senators, Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono, voted for the deal.
The omnibus budget bill increased spending across the board, including an additional $80 billion for defense and $63 billion for everything else.
What that means is that a lot of agencies will be seeing more money. It also means that some of the largesse will be headed to Hawaii.
Schatz, who sits on the Appropriations Committee, said this is the best appropriations bill he’s seen for Hawaii since he became a senator in December 2012.
“I’m really thrilled with this bill and the work that went into it,” Schatz said during a telephone call with reporters. “It’s going to help Hawaii significantly.”
The senator issued a lengthy press release that laid out in detail the money that’s coming to the Aloha State, from funds for monk seal protection ($8 million) to military construction ($317 million).
There’s millions of dollars more in the budget for Native Hawaiian health care and education. The spending bill passed by the House on Thursday includes $36.4 million for cultural education programs, which is $3 million more than was allocated last year.
According to Schatz’s office, Trump proposed eliminating funding for Native Hawaii education programs in his budget.
Money for affordable housing and transportation infrastructure will also see a boost. But there’s no new funding for Honolulu’s rail project.
Schatz pointed out a number of line items that he, with help from other members of the delegation, were able to protect from the Trump administration.
The president had proposed cutting funds for the East-West Center, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s tsunami program and the National Parks Service’s grant program for Japanese-American confinement sites, such as Honouliuli National Monument.
The new budget averts those cuts.
Another line item not included in Schatz’s list, but of importance to Hawaii, is a $61 million allocation for a “Homeland Defense Radar.”
That money, which is part of the Department of Defense’s budget for the current fiscal year, will go toward a new radar project that will help the military better protect Hawaii from incoming missile threats, such as from North Korea.
It’s important to note that the new cash influx isn’t a one-time deal.
Congress and the president have already agreed to lift the spending caps on next year’s budget, which means Hawaii will continue to see millions more flowing to the state from Washington.
“We will continue to have to fight for everything tooth and nail,” Schatz said. “But this is the new baseline.”
More broadly, Hanabusa said in a statement that, “This spending package represents a bipartisan rebuke of the Trump administration’s stated budget priorities.”
“Many of the issues and proposals that Democrats pushed back on are not included in this bill. Hopefully, it is a signal that Congress is willing to work together in the best interest of the American people when the Trump administration refuses to do so.”
President Donald Trump wanted $25 billion to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. He got $1.6 billion instead for border barriers described mostly as “fencing.”
The bill also included provisions that would allow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study gun violence and provide $4.6 billion to combat opioid addiction.
One glaring omission is a deal for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. DACA is the Obama-era program President Donald Trump nixed last year that protected from deportation thousands of undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children.
Although the bill enjoyed bipartisan support, the way it came together frustrated many lawmakers, including Sen. Mazie Hirono.
The bill itself is 2,232 pages, and the fact that it dropped late Wednesday didn’t give much time for thorough scrutiny before a vote.
Hirono, who was recently named to a joint committee to review the appropriations process, told CNN that the hurried negotiations and voting were “dysfunctional” and “a nutty way to proceed.”
U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, a Democrat from Massachusetts, was similarly miffed when he took the House floor Thursday morning before the vote.
“In all honesty, none of us know what is actually in this bill and whether or not there are some things here that, quite frankly, might be very, very troubling,” he said.
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