WASHINGTON — The House on Tuesday approved a massive $1.4 trillion spending package after throwing in something for just about everyone.
Nebraska’s trio of Republican House members supported the package and its hundreds of millions of dollars for military facilities in the state.
“This is an important day for America as a bipartisan agreement was reached to fund the government, stave off a government shutdown and fund priorities important to Nebraskans and our critical piece of military infrastructure, Offutt Air Force Base,” Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., said in a statement.
Most of the money for Nebraska’s military installations is intended to help recover from this year’s devastating floods.
Fortenberry is a member of the House Appropriations Committee responsible for crafting spending bills and provided the following breakdown of some Nebraska-related line items:
- $141 million for rebuilding Offutt Air Force Base.
- $205 million to replace infrastructure related to RC-135 aircraft at the base.
- $48 million for recovery efforts at the Nebraska National Guard’s Camp Ashland training base.
- $29 million for the Nebraska National Guard’s new Bellevue Readiness Center.
The package allocates money for a host of priorities, including rural broadband, school safety, election security, and 3.1% raises for military personnel and civilian employees.
The package is expected to pass the Senate this week. And as the last 2019 legislative train leaving the station, all manner of unrelated items got thrown on board at the last minute.
Among the provisions in more than 2,000 pages: an increase in the legal age for tobacco smoking and vaping to 21 and an extension of the Export-Import Bank that helps U.S. companies sell products overseas.
It includes a slew of tax-related provisions: extending tax credits for various industries such as biodiesel, correcting a glitch from the last Republican tax bill that affected surviving families of military personnel killed in action and repealing various taxes that were implemented as part of the Affordable Care Act.
Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, supported the package, which passed as two separate bills.
“These investments in Iowa will be key to increasing access to health care and a quality education, investing in our rural communities, growing small business investments, helping our seniors, ensuring environmental protections and honoring our responsibilities to our veterans,” Axne said in a press release. “In addition, I’m happy to see much-needed tax provisions to extend critical biofuel tax credits and permanently repeal health care taxes that would hurt Iowans.”
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Taxpayer watchdog advocates blasted the package for contributing to the already-rising national debt — a point Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., acknowledged.
But the Omaha congressman said there were too many good proposals in the package to oppose it.
The measure represents both parties coming together to strike a compromise, Bacon said, and the spending levels ultimately work out to an increase of a little less than 3%.
“I don’t know that we could have gotten a better deal with split government,” Bacon said. “And 2.5%, within inflation, is reasonable.”
He also talked about the impact the funding for Offutt will have after the terrible destruction the base experienced earlier this year.
“It’s going to make Offutt bigger and better by the time we’re done,” Bacon said. “That’s a win.”