What's in the US$1.3 trillion spending bill before the US Congress

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, accompanied by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, speaking at a news conference about the spending bill moving through Congress, on March 22, 2018.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, accompanied by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, speaking at a news conference about the spending bill moving through Congress, on March 22, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The US Congress is aiming to pass a US$1.3 trillion (S$1.7 trillion) spending bill and send it to President Donald Trump before a midnight Friday (March 23) deadline to fund the US government until Oct 1 and avoid a shutdown.

The House of Representatives on Thursday approved the massive deal by a 256-167 vote, sending it to the Senate for its approval.

Here are some of the provisions in the 2,232-page bill, which if enacted is expected to lead to budget deficits of more than US$800 billion for this year when coupled with recently enacted tax cuts.

MILITARY

The bill would finance the largest build up of defense spending in 15 years by increasing the military's budget by US$80 billion over last year's budget. It includes a 2.4 per cent pay raise for US troops and buys new equipment.

BORDER WALL

It allots US$1.6 billion for "physical barriers and associated technology along the Southwest border" that the United States shares with Mexico. Trump had at one point asked for US$25 billion, the estimated cost of building the entire wall.

GUN CONTROL

In response to public anger and frustration over mass shootings, including a Feb 14 massacre at a Florida high school, the bill contains modest improvements to background checks for gun sales and grants to help schools prevent gun violence.

It also clarifies that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is permitted to study the causes of gun violence.

FIXES TO THE TAX LAW

It fixes one of the most glaring errors in the Republican tax law passed in December by revising a provision that has become known as the "grain glitch."

Big grain buyers complained the glitch gave lucrative tax breaks to grain producers for selling to farming cooperatives, and a lesser break for selling to agriculture companies.

RUSSIAN ELECTION MEDDLING

The bill would provide a US$307 million increase above the administration's request for counter-intelligence efforts to fight Russian cyber attacks in 2018, when US congressional elections will be held, and US$380 million for grants to states to secure their election systems.

HEALTH RESEARCH

The bill allots additional funds to the National Institutes of Health, including a US$414 million increase for Alzheimer's disease research, US$40 million more for research on developing a universal flu vaccine and US$17 million more for antibiotic-resistance bacteria research.

Separately, it earmarks an additional US$2.8 billion to fund treatment and prevention of opioid addiction and research into the subject.

INFRASTRUCTURE

The spending package earmarks US$10 billion for highways, airports, railroads and broadband.