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VOL. 43 | NO. 7 | Friday, February 15, 2019

Highlights of the $330 billion-plus bill to avoid shutdown

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WASHINGTON (AP) — It's not just about President Donald Trump's border wall.

The border security issues that sparked a 35-day government shutdown are but one element of a massive $330 billion-plus spending measure that wraps seven bills into one, funding nine Cabinet agencies, including the departments of Justice, State, Agriculture and Commerce. End-stage fights over unrelated policy provisions produced a deadlock, so efforts to extend soon-to-expire laws like the federal flood insurance program were dropped.

Highlights of the measure, which runs 1,768 pages of legislative text and explanation, include:

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BORDER SECURITY, BUT NOT JUST BARRIERS

There's nearly $1.4 billion for 55 miles of new barriers in Texas' Rio Grande Valley, well less than the $5.7 billion Trump wanted but only slightly below Trump's original $1.6 billion request for 65 miles. There would be curbs on where construction could occur to protect environmentally sensitive areas.

The bill funds an average of 45,000-plus detention spaces for immigrants entering and living in the U.S. illegally, with flexibility to house even more. There's more than $1 billion for other forms of border security, including improvements in surveillance equipment, hiring 600 additional customs officers, more immigration judges and $414 million in humanitarian aid for unauthorized immigrants who are detained.

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A BILLION HERE, A BILLION THERE

Most of the bill deals with spending minutia such as a $1 billion increase to gear up for the 2020 census, an almost 4 percent budget increase for NASA and an $11.3 billion budget for the IRS. Most agencies are kept relatively level compared to last year, and the measure rejects big spending cuts — such as a $12 billion cut to foreign aid and the State Department — proposed by Trump.

It funds a new $435 million Homeland Security Department office to counter weapons of mass destruction, $550 million for rural broadband service, $468 million to combat the opioid epidemic above what was passed in legislation last year, $6 billion to combat HIV/AIDS overseas, and Israel's annual $3.3 billion military aid package. There's $3 billion to help state and local law enforcement, money for the Coast Guard's first new icebreaker in four decades, increases for roads and mass transit, and money for clean air and water projects.

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FEDERAL EMPLOYEE PAY

Trump has proposed a pay freeze for civilian federal employees, but the measure would guarantee those workers a 1.9 percent increase. The military got a 2.6 percent increase in legislation that passed Congress last year.

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'EXTENDERS'? NEVER MIND

Lawmakers in both parties eyed the measure to renew the government's troubled federal flood insurance program through Sept. 30, but it and a full menu of expiring laws collectively known as "extenders" went unaddressed in the end. That meant a host of miscellaneous provisions were dropped in the final stages.

A drive by Senate Republicans to extend the Violence Against Women Act was blocked by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who feared it would undercut efforts to update the law this spring.

Meanwhile, an extension of a Medicaid provision on home- and community-based nursing care, grants for the poor under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program and fixes to a trust fund that finances dredging and maintenance or ports and harbors will also have to advance later.

A bid by Pelosi to win back pay for federal contractors laid off during the recent shutdown was blocked by the White House.

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BIG TRUCKS

For fans of the truly obscure, there's a provision to exempt sugar beet trucks in rural Oregon from length limits. It would also add exemptions to federal truck weight rules in the state of Kentucky.

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