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House approves spending deal that would avert government shutdown, raise tobacco age, research gun violence

Christal Hayes, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – The House passed a $1.37 trillion spending package that includes money for President Donald Trump's border wall, funding for gun violence research and increasing the age for purchasing tobacco products from 18 to 21. 

The approval Tuesday could avert a government shutdown that would begin Friday, when the government is set to run out of funding. The package will go to the Senate for approval before being sent to Trump for his signature.

The votes on the spending package, which was broken up into two bills, marked the first of three monumental votes scheduled in the House this week. The others include a historic vote on two articles of impeachment against Trump and a new North American trade deal. 

Trump has yet to weigh in on the spending deal, reached after months of discussions between House and Senate leaders. Trump and Congress are wary of another government stoppage after last year's 35-day shutdown over disagreements on the president's desire to build a wall along the southern U.S. border. 

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The spending deal leaves funding for the wall, one of the president's campaign promises, unchanged from $1.375 billion, but like last year, the administration will keep the ability to reallocate funds from other government accounts, a trade-off since Democrats wanted to rein in the administration's power to adjust spending after it was denied by Congress. 

Though the amount was a far cry from the $8.6 billion the president requested, some House Democrats remained opposed to the settled agreement. Shortly before the vote, the Hispanic Caucus said it opposed the inclusion of money for the wall and detention beds for immigrants. 

The caucus, which includes about 40 lawmakers, said the pros of the bill did not "outweigh the serious issues that remain." 

"We have a responsibility to our constituents and Latinos across this country to defend our communities from the president's chaotic, wasteful and racist policies," the caucus said in a statement, explaining that without reining in the administration's ability to move around money, "this spending bill is effectively a blank check that will allow the administration to continue redirecting billions from real national security priorities to instead inflict cruelty and militarize our border."

President Donald Trump must approve the spending bill to avert a government shutdown Friday.

The deal offered something for both Democrats and Republicans.

Liberals secured a 3.1% raise for federal workers, upgrades to election systems and $25 million in gun violence research after decades of the gun lobby working against it. 

"I’m pleased that we have reached a bipartisan agreement that will keep government open, provide the certainty of full-year funding, and make strong investments in key priorities for American communities," said House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y. "With higher spending levels in line with the bipartisan budget agreement, we are scaling up funding for priorities that will make our country safer and stronger and help hardworking families get ahead."

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Republicans were able to tout $22 billion more in funding for the Pentagon and the preservation of restrictions related to abortion.

Some of the largest measures in the deal are fairly bipartisan, including a permanent repeal of the "Cadillac Tax," a 40% tax on higher employer insurance plans that was passed as part of the Affordable Care Act. 

"This legislation makes a robust investment in rebuilding our military and secures significant funds for the president’s border wall system," said Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala. "These bills include a long list of priorities that will benefit people across the country. This is what the American people deserve – for us to fulfill our primary responsibility – funding the government."

The deal would raise the age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21, a move that gained support after the increased use of vaping and e-cigarettes. 

About 28% of high school students and 11% of middle schoolers surveyed this year had vaped within the past month, and as of the end of October, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 34 deaths and 1,604 lung injury cases related to vaping. 

Contributing: Doug Stanglin

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: House approves spending deal to avert shutdown, raise tobacco age