Congress crammed something for just about everyone into the $1.3 trillion spending package unveiled on Wednesday—more money for the military, border security, the opioid epidemic, infrastructure, student loans, election security, and even a few modest measures to prevent gun violence.
But lawmakers whiffed on striking agreements on two of their biggest priorities of the last six months: stabilizing the individual health insurance markets under the Affordable Care Act and resolving the status of young undocumented immigrants protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Negotiations over both issues broke down in the final days leading up to a March 23 deadline for funding the government. And given the likelihood that the omnibus spending bill will be the last major piece of legislation enacted before the midterm campaign heats up, Congress may have missed its best chance to act either on DACA or Obamacare before the November election.
The lack of a DACA fix stung Democrats in particular, who had promised immigrant activists that as part of the spending fight they would secure an extension of protections for immigrants brought into the U.S. illegally as children after President Trump announced last fall he would end the Obama-era program in March. But a trio of factors drained the party of the leverage it once had on immigration. First, Democratic leaders had to retreat barely 48 hours into a government shutdown they caused in January over the lack of a DACA bill. Then, a federal judge ordered the Trump administration to continue accepting two-year renewals for DACA, essentially negating the March 5 deadline that Congress was trying to meet. Finally, bipartisan proposals to offer a path to citizenship for so-called Dreamers in exchange for enhanced border security fizzled in the Senate once the Trump administration urged Republicans to oppose them.