Senate Republican says he may break with party on defense spending bill: Report

One day after President Donald Trump’s impeachment, members of both parties will come together to pass a budget-busting spending bill in the Senate.

But bipartisan agreement on the $1.4 trillion package has alarmed fiscal conservatives like Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WY), who see the bill as a betrayal of the GOP’s longtime concern over big spending. Sen. Johnson told reporters on Wednesday that he’s considering breaking with Republicans and voting against the defense “minibus” part of the bill, the Washington Examiner reports.

Breaking the ranks

As Politico notes, the spending bill has attracted muted attention, with impeachment theater distracting the country. Still, the Democratic House passed the 12 spending bills in the package Tuesday, and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is expected to shepherd the omnibus through the Senate on Thursday to avert a government shutdown Friday.

Trump has praised the defense part of the deal, which creates the Space Force, includes $1.4 billion in wall funding — the same amount as last year, and far short of the project’s roughly $8 billion price tag — as well as $22 billion in spending increases for the military, and gives pay raises to soldiers, according to Reuters. But others have criticized the measure on more traditional grounds of fiscal restraintThe Washington Post notes.

For his part, Johnson said that he would likely vote against the “awful” defense “minibus.”

“I’m certainly leaning that way,” Johnson said, according to the Examiner. “I’ll take a look at what the final — probably awful — deal is. I do want to support the appropriations for the military, but when you take a look at all the bad stuff that is in there, it’s not [going to] be an easy ‘yes’ vote, that’s for sure.”

Others, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) — who called the $1.4 trillion package a “pile of trash” — have criticized the slapdash manner in which the deal was rammed through Congress. Cruz said that the bill didn’t go far enough to fund the border wall in a viral tirade.

A big, bizarre bill

Indeed, the bill includes bizarre policy items tucked within its labyrinthine hundreds of pages. Included are an amnesty plan for select illegal immigrants and a provision to raise the minimum age to buy cigarettes to 21.

The bill also allows Congress to fund “gun violence research” for the first time in 20 years, appropriating $25 million to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for the project, according to The Hill.

Conservatives, for their part, have warned that it’s little more than a prelude to more restrictive gun control efforts.

But among the strangest items is a program tucked away in the defense bill that provides a pathway to citizenship for thousands of illegal immigrants from Liberia. What that has to do with improving national security remains a mystery, but that hasn’t stopped Republicans in Congress from endorsing it.

The Senate passed eight of the 12 bills in the package Thursday in a 71–23 vote, according to CNBC, and the body will vote on the defense “minibus” part later Thursday. President Trump is expected to sign the whole bill Friday — but does he know what’s in it?

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