President Trump signed the bill into law on September 28, 2018, marking the first time in more than two decades that Congress has appropriated such a large share of the federal government's annual spending prior to the fiscal year deadline. Unlike the typical process of last-minute omnibus appropriations, Congress has taken a renewed, bipartisan approach to the appropriations process this year, passing appropriations measures at a pace unheard of in recent memory. Lawmakers already agreed to increase spending levels for FY19 as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, helping to speed up the appropriations process.
In addition to the Defense/Labor-HHS-Education bill, Congress passed and President Trump signed into law another bundled appropriations measure including Military Construction-VA, Energy-Water, and Legislative Branch measures. Congress has now enacted five of 12 annual appropriations bills before the new fiscal year began on October 1, 2018. Lawmakers included a stopgap funding measure in the Defense/Labor-HHS-Education bill to continue funding for the remaining departments and agencies until December 7, 2018.
Congress will face tough decisions on the seven outstanding FY19 spending bills during the lame-duck session after the midterm elections. The remaining appropriations bills comprise about a quarter of the federal government's annual discretionary spending and include Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science, Financial Services-General Government, Homeland Security, Interior and Environment, State-Foreign Operations, and Transportation-HUD. Homeland Security may be particularly difficult, given President Trump's push for funding the border wall and other immigration reforms. The midterm elections may also play a key role in shaping the outcome of these remaining FY19 spending bills. If Democrats gain a majority in the House or Senate, they may insist on postponing Homeland Security decisions in the lame-duck session until the new Congress when they would have more leverage.