Congress Reaches Spending Deal; ‘Skinny Budget’ Goes Out the Window

Take Big Bird off the altar; they're not going to sacrifice him after all. (*) Congress has reached a deal to keep the government funded til September and, as usual, the GOP's talk about defunding public radio and TV has turned out to be an empty threat. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting isn't being zeroed out. In fact, the bill will fund it at the same level as last year.

The National Endowment for the Arts? It'll get more this year than last. The National Endowment for the Humanities? Same. The Environmental Protection Agency is getting less money, but not the 31 percent cut proposed in the administration's so-called "skinny budget"; instead it's losing just 1 percent. And no, Planned Parenthood isn't getting defunded.

I highlighted those five items not because they're big parts of the budget—only the EPA really spends that much—but because they're the sorts of red-meat issues that get Republicans and Democrats worked up. If they're basically unchanged, you can be sure that there won't be major reductions in the areas where there's a lot of bipartisan agreement. Sure enough, there will be more money for medical research, for national parks, for NASA, for the DEA, for Homeland Security, and—of course—for the Pentagon. The military won't be getting the $54 billion hike that Trump proposed, but the $25 billion boost that it's getting instead isn't so shabby.

There are a few small victories here and there for limited government. The plan won't fund Trump's border wall (though border security in general is getting a spending spike), and Jeff Sessions may be unhappy to hear that the Department of Justice won't be allowed to use its funds to keep states "from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana." And yes, some offices will be seeing some cuts under Trump, just as some offices saw some cuts under Obama.

Overall, though, Bloomberg's Sahil Kapur summed it up pretty well:

If that sounds familiar, it's because it's pretty much what we've been telling you to expect here at Reason. We may live in weird times, but some things are still predictable.

(* Yes, I know: These days Big Bird airs on HBO. He is nonetheless fated to forever be a synecdoche for the CPB.)