Power & Market

$1.3 Trillion Spending Bill Passes the House, What’s In It?

$1.3 Trillion Spending Bill Passes the House, What’s In It?

Today offers the latest reminder that the question of US default is not a matter of “if”, but “how.”

The House has passed a $1.3 trillion dollar spending bill, thanks to majorities on both sides of the isle. Since Congress had less than 48 hours to pass this 2,232 page bill, we can at least rest comfortably knowing that our wise leaders are fully aware of everything they voted on.

While the rest of the public waits for information to trickle out, here are some of the things we know the bill contains - outside of the gun control measure I mentioned yesterday:

As CNN notes:

  • $4 billion to address the country’s opioid crisis 
  • $380 million for election security grants
  • Funding that can be used for the controversial Gateway project, which aims to bolster railway infrastructure between New York and New Jersey
  • A technical fix to the tax bill that now will give grain buyers -- regardless of whether they are a co-op or not -- equal footing
  • $21 billion for infrastructure projects all around the country
  • An increase in Childcare Development Block Grants,
  • Expansion of the low-income housing tax credit
  • More money for the National Park Service
  • More money for veteran hospitals and veterans’ homes
  • Pay raise for the troops
  • $2.3 billion for school safety
  • $1.57 billion for border security, including barriers and technology

It’s worth noting the opioid money is not the same as the program outlined this week by the Trump Administration. There is expected to be additional legislation coming soon, though it is unlikely to offer a practical approach to the crisis. The bill also does nothing to reduce or eliminate funding to Planned Parenthood.

The 4th Amendment also took another hit today, thanks to the inclusion of the CLOUD Act to the spending bill. The provision eliminates judicial protections to personal electronic data and empowers the executive branch to negotiate with foreign countries on what they can take from private servers and share with one another. 

As Neema Singh Guliani wrote for The Hill:

The Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act, or CLOUD Act ,is a bill recently introduced to establish new standards for when governments want to obtain information stored outside their jurisdiction. The Department of Justice and major tech companies are actively supporting the bill, erroneously suggesting it will advance consumer rights. Meanwhile, privacy and human rights organizations that have opposed the bill are rightfully pointing out that it jettisons current human rights protections in favor of vague standards that could gut individual rights. 

The bill would strip power away from Congress and the judicial branch, giving Sessions and Pompeo (and future executive branch officials) virtually unchecked authority to negotiate data exchange agreements with foreign nations, regardless of whether they respect human rights or not. That’s a major shift from current law.

Naturally DC shoehorns this into a spending bill the very same week politicians are criticizing Facebook for their handling of private data. 

It’s also worth noting that Jeff Sessions suffered another blow in his desired war on marijuana. Language in the bill explicitly bars any Department of Justice funding be used to crack down on any state that has legalized “medical marijuana”. The language here is worth noting however, because it still leaves the door open for Federal action against recreational cannabis.

We’ll see if the Attorney General makes good on his promise to crack down on states rights. 

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