Whitehouse: There’s some ‘terrific stuff’ in bipartisan budget deal

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — While most people were sleeping, federal lawmakers approved a budget deal that put an end to a short-lived government shutdown.

All but one of Rhode Island’s congressmen voted in favor of the $400 billion spending plan, which was signed by President Donald Trump Friday morning.

Upon returning to Rhode Island, Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse on Friday told Eyewitness News he’s happy with the budget overall.

“There’s some terrific stuff in it,” he said. “Particularly very, very significant opioids funding that will come shortly to Rhode Island and make a big, big difference.”

The bipartisan deal also increases defense spending, provides billions for disaster relief and extends the debt ceiling until 2019.

“The fact that it was bipartisan is really important,” Whitehouse added.

Notably not included in the deal were any plans to assist the “dreamers,” undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children who were protected under the DACA program, which is set to expire in March.

GOP Senate leaders have promised to debate immigration in the immediate future and hold a vote, but House Speaker Paul Ryan has not made the same promise.

“There’s no excuse for Speaker Ryan not promising a vote on DACA and the dreamers,” Whitehouse said.

Ryan on Thursday said he was determined to bring an immigration bill to the floor this year, albeit only one that has Trump’s blessing.

The DACA issue was one of the reasons many House Democrats, including Rep. David Cicilline, voted against the budget deal. He also said the opioid funding was less than what is needed to end the epidemic, and he didn’t think enough money was dedicated to domestic issues.

“In my view, this proposal also did not strike the right balance between defense spending and critical investments in job training, infrastructure, and other priorities for working families,” Cicilline said in a statement.

Like Whitehouse, Sen. Jack Reed and Congressman Jim Langevin, also Democrats, voted in favor of the budget plan.

In a statement Friday, Langevin said the plan “lifts stifling budget caps and provides the framework to develop a long-term funding bill that invests in infrastructure projects and supports our military service members, teachers, and law enforcement officers.”

Langevin also criticized the lack of protection for dreamers, saying he plans to continue to call on Speaker Ryan to hold a vote in the House.

Reed said Rhode Island will benefit from several provisions included in the deal, such as the $20 billion in infrastructure investments, $6 billion for opioid treatment, recovery and prevention programs and funding for Community Health Centers and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

“The bipartisan budget framework passed today isn’t perfect,” Reed said, “but it is a pragmatic step toward breaking the cycle of short-term budgeting and offers an opportunity to provide some much needed certainty and stability.”