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US Congress averts shutdown

WASHINGTON – Congressional Republicans and Democrats forged a hard-won agreement Sunday night on a huge $1 trillion-plus spending bill that would fund the day-to-day operations of virtually every federal agency through September, denying President Donald Trump funding for a border wall, and rejecting his cuts to popular domestic programs.

Aides to lawmakers involved in the talks announced the agreement after weeks of negotiations. It’s expected to be made public early Monday.

The catchall spending bill would be the first major piece of bipartisan legislation to advance during Trump’s short tenure in the White House. While losing on the wall along the US-Mexico border, Trump won a $15 billion down payment on his request to strengthen the military.

The measure funds the remainder of the 2017 budget year, rejecting cuts to popular domestic programs targeted by Trump, such as medical research and infrastructure grants.

Successful votes later this week would also clear away any remaining threat of a government shutdown – at least until the October 1 start of the 2018 budget year. Trump has submitted a partial 2018 budget promising a 10 percent increase for the Pentagon, financed by cuts to foreign aid and other non-defense programs that negotiators on the pending measure protected.

Democrats were quick off the mark to praise the deal.

“This agreement is a good agreement for the American people, and takes the threat of a government shutdown off the table,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., a key force in the talks. “The bill ensures taxpayer dollars aren’t used to fund an ineffective border wall, excludes poison pill riders, and increases investments in programs that the middle class relies on, like medical research, education, and infrastructure.”

Trump said at nearly every campaign stop last year that Mexico would pay for the 2,000-mile (3,218.54-kilometer) border wall, a claim Mexican leaders have repeatedly rejected. The administration sought some $1.4 billion in US taxpayer dollars for the wall and related costs in the spending bill, but Trump later relented and said the issue could wait until September. (AP)

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