WASHINGTON — Senate leaders announced a bipartisan two-year budget deal midday on Wednesday that would increase federal infrastructure spending by $20 billion and provide billions of dollars in targeted disaster aid to Puerto Rico.
Congress is expected to include a suspension of the nation’s debt ceiling until after the November election as part of the package, clearing the way for Treasury to reopen the window for sales of state and local government series securities within days.
The agreement would increase non-defense spending by $63 billion in fiscal year 2018 that began last October and by $68 billion in fiscal year 2019 that will begin Oct. 1.
House and Senate appropriators will have until March 23 to incorporate those additional funds into a 2018 spending plan.
The increased domestic spending includes $6 billion for anti-opioid and mental health programs, $5.8 billion for Child Care Development Block Grants, and $4 billion for college affordability programs.
The agreement announced on the Senate floor by Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York would also include emergency disaster relief funding for Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Florida and Texas that passed the House in December.
The financially-strapped Medicaid health care programs for the poor on Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Island would receive $4.9 billion over two years to provide 100% federal funding, according to Delegate Stacey Plaskett of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
In addition, $2 billion in federal disaster aid will be available to rebuild Puerto Rico’s electric grid, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Resident Commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalez of Puerto Rico said in a joint press release.
Plaskett said the disaster aid include also will fund rebuilding the electric grid on the U.S. Virgin Islands. Electricity there has been 95% to 100% restored on each of the islands while a significant percentage of customers on Puerto Rico remain without service.
The disaster aid also include $23.5 billion for the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund for recovery, repairs and future mitigation and $28 billion in Community Development Block Grants for housing, infrastructure repairs, economic revitalization, and other needs, including $12 billion for mitigation, according to Plaskett.
Another$15 billion would be available for Army Corps mitigation and resiliency projects.
“Virtually all of our spending priorities for Puerto Rico are included in this deal, including two years of funding for Medicaid and additional money for infrastructure, hospitals, community health centers and grid work repair,” Rubio said.
Gonzalez described the new round of disaster aid as “a big step in the right direction” toward a long-term commitment by Congress to assist Puerto Rico.
The deal still requires a 60-vote supermajority for passage in the Senate and a majority for passage in the House.
Senate Democrats are supporting the deal because McConnell has agreed to a floor consideration of immigration legislation that would provide legal protections for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children who are commonly referred to as “dreamers.”
McConnell said on the Senate floor that the immigration debate will allow equal consideration of proposals by both sides.
Schumer urged House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., to pledge similar consideration of immigration legislation in the House.
Ryan, however, has only promised that an immigration bill will be brought to a floor vote. House Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California said Wednesday she is withholding her support of the budget deal absent a promise from Ryan that’s similar to McConnell’s pledge.
If Congress approves the budget deal this week, it will smooth the path for the Trump administration’s plan to have the federal government spend $200 billion on infrastructure over 10 years to leverage $1.5 trillion in investment.
The administration’s plan is scheduled to be released Monday in conjunction with its proposed federal 2019 budget.
The administration has been expected to propose cuts in some programs to offset the cost of its infrastructure program, but the budget deal eliminates the necessity of doing that.