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Spending deal omits most cuts Trump wanted

WASHINGTON -- President Trump didn't get the border wall or the budget cuts he wanted in a congressional spending deal that instead preserved funding for home heating aid, the Great Lakes, community development, medical research and a host of other programs important to the Buffalo area.

The bill, which will fund the government through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, averts a possible government shutdown later this week.

In its particulars, it more resembles the kind of spending deals that former President Barack Obama -- a Democrat -- struck with Republicans in Congress, rather than the wall-building, program-slashing approach Trump suggested.

“It worked out much better for the American people," Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said Monday regarding the budget deal. "Overwhelmingly, we were pleased with the outcome."

Despite an array of media reports expressing astonishment at how well Democrats -- a minority in both House and Senate -- fared in the budget agreement, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Monday that President Trump got much of what he wanted, including more money for defense and homeland security.

"He’s obviously very pleased with how his priorities were addressed" in the spending deal, Spicer said. "I have every expectation that he would sign it. But let’s just -- let’s wait until it’s on his desk."

The bill includes $21 million in additional funding for defense, along with a $1.5 billion increase in homeland security funding, which Trump sought.

But, it specifically states that the Trump administration cannot spend those extra homeland security funds on a wall at the Mexico border. And it outright ignores Trump's call for $18 billion in immediate domestic spending cuts.

Trump proposed the eventual elimination of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which serves 105,000 families in Erie and Niagara counties. He also wanted to immediately eliminate the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Community Development Block Grants and the "TIGER" transportation grants that have been funding the return of cars to Buffalo's Main Street.

But the spending deal doesn't fulfill any of those Trump wishes.

Instead, the deal holds funding steady for each of those programs.

"Everyone should breathe a huge sigh of relief that this is business as usual, with extra money for defense," said Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence.

Among those breathing a sigh of relief was Todd Ambs, campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. That's because the deal ensures that the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative -- which funded the cleanup of the Buffalo River -- will continue.

“We’re pleased public officials in Congress stood up to support Great Lakes investments that are producing results for our environment and economy and resisted cuts that would only make projects more difficult and expensive to tackle," Ambs said.

Funding for the Community Development Block Grant, which brought $12.5 million to Buffalo for community improvements, will remain steady as well.

"That will be very beneficial," said Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo.

Regarding the entire spending deal, Higgins said: "All of this is very good with respect to what the White House was proposing. There are Republican members that value the same programs that Democratic members do."

Among them are Collins and Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning. Both of them pressed for funding for the Great Lakes and a host of other programs that Trump wanted to cut.

Collins and Higgins both said they were happy the spending deal increases funding for the National Institutes of Health by $2 billion.

"That money is going to go right to places like Roswell Park Cancer Institute," Higgins said.

Reed said he was pleased that the West Valley Demonstration Project will get $66.4 million under the spending deal, up nearly $5 million from the previous year.

"The funding increase for FY17 will provide additional resources to make the region safer for residents,” Reed said, regarding the Cattaraugus County nuclear waste facility.

Reed, like most of his Western New York colleagues, lauded the budget deal.

“We worked in a bipartisan manner to create a fair approach to spending," he said.

Of the lawmakers that represent Western New York, only Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, a Democrat, took a wait-and-see approach on the spending deal.

“Senator Gillibrand is still reviewing the legislation," said Whitney Brennan, the senator's spokesperson.

In contrast, Schumer seemed especially happy with the deal, perhaps because he was especially influential in shaping it.

He made clear from the start that Senate Democrats would oppose the deal if it included funding for Trump's wall at the Mexican border or any other measures that Democrats considered "poison pills."

And, because of the Senate's filibuster rules -- which require that most legislation cross a 60-vote threshold in the 100-member Senate -- Democrats had the power to stop such proposals from being included in the bill.

"We were able to knock out more than 160 'poison pill riders' from the final agreement, including the border wall, anti-labor measures that hurt the working people of America, efforts to defund Planned Parenthood," Schumer said. "And we were able achieve significant investments in domestic programs that help the middle class and those struggling to get to the middle class."

Collins, for one, acknowledged Schumer's effectiveness.

"Senator Schumer was very clear about what he would and would not agree to," he said.

But Collins, a close Trump ally, insisted that Trump got plenty of what he wanted in the bill, especially in terms of increased defense spending.

Some reports in the press weren't so generous.

"Democrats celebrate as Trump caves in his first budget negotiation," read a headline on the Washington Post's online edition on Monday afternoon.

"Congress strikes budget deal that shortchanges Trump," Politico reported.

Trump, meanwhile, appeared to shortchange Schumer.

Speaking at a rally in Harrisburg, Pa., Saturday while congressional negotiators were finishing work on the spending deal, Trump said: "Senator Schumer's a bad leader, not a natural leader at all."

Asked to comment on Trump's criticism, Schumer Monday suggested that the President should get more involved in reaching out to Democrats as well as Republicans rather than "calling names."

What's more, Schumer suggested the budget deal could become a template for a spending deal for fiscal 2018, noting that congressional Democrats and Republicans hammered out the deal together.

"This bodes well for the 2018 budget," Schumer said. "It bodes well for working together. And frankly, I hope the president learns this lesson as well."

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