Congressional leaders struck the biggest bipartisan breakthrough of the Trump era by going back to the old rules of Washington: The quickest way to reach consensus is by cracking open the federal piggy bank and divvying up what falls out.
A two-year budget agreement announced on Wednesday achieves a hard-fought fiscal peace, but at a steep price for taxpayers and the federal deficit: an increase of around $300 billion in overall spending. President Trump and GOP defense hawks have secured a long-sought boost in military funding, but only after agreeing to nearly commensurate increases in domestic discretionary spending. The deal directs tens of billions of extra dollars to disaster relief, $20 billion toward infrastructure projects, $6 billion to combat the opioid crisis, and billions more for veterans and children’s health care. In exchange for eliminating across-the-board sequestration cuts to the Pentagon, lawmakers will all but ignore the $54 billion in reductions to domestic programs and the State Department that Trump proposed in his first budget request last year.
The result is that if this agreement wins approval, federal spending would rise to levels few would have predicted when Republicans won full control of Congress and the White House in 2016. On top of the $1.5 trillion tax cuts the GOP enacted in December, the deal will confirm the nation’s return to the $1 trillion annual budget deficits that arrived with the Great Recession a decade ago. As part of the agreement, Congress would suspend the debt ceiling for another year, ensuring that it will not have to be lifted again until just before Trump runs for reelection.