Lawmakers near deal on $1.3 trillion spending bill

WASHINGTON — A bipartisan agreement over a $1.3 trillion spending package is nearly complete, sources said Wednesday. The deal would keep the government funded through September and prevent a government shutdown — if it's passed and signed into law by the Friday night deadline.

Congressional leaders met Wednesday morning to discuss a few remaining details ahead of the bill's expected release later in the day, with House lawmakers still aiming for a Thursday floor vote ahead of the Friday deadline.

"We had a very very good meeting and we hope that everything will be done," said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., exiting the meeting, and predicted the bill would be ready in a few hours. House Speaker Paul Ryan said lawmakers were making progress. "It was a good meeting actually — very good," he said.

Congress has until Friday at midnight to pass the spending package ahead of a two-week recess for Easter and Passover.

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The Most At-Risk Foods During The Government Shutdown
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The Most At-Risk Foods During The Government Shutdown

The FDA closely watches foods that have exhibited contamination in the past and certain foods have caused more illnesses than others.

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Chicken

A recent multi-drug resistant outbreak of salmonella has sickened 278 people in 17 states. The government has recalled the contaminated chicken and issues a public health alert. The Center for Science in the Public Interest believes this could have been stopped more efficiently had the government been operating normally.

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Eggs

Salmonella lives in the intestinal tracts of chickens, which is why eggs are at high risk for salmonella contamination. Since eggs have caused a whopping 352 outbreaks and 11,163 reported illnesses, it's important to wash them thoroughly and cook them well.

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Metals In Fruit Juice

The FDA once discovered lead and arsenic in fruit juice concentrates from Argentina and China. One eight-ounce serving contained three times the amount of lead said to be safe for children.

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Berries

Berries have been the culprit of over 25 outbreaks and caused 3,397 illnesses. Since they have been linked to contamination in the past, it would be smart to take extra precaution.

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Bacteria In Cheese

Contaminants like salmonella and E. coli have been found in imported cheeses from all over the world. The FDA also keeps an eye out for nitrates in cheese and other dairy products.

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Cocaine In Tea

In 1986, The DEA discovered herbal tea made from “decocainized coca leaves,” which ended up in Hawaii, Georgia, Chicago and other locations on the East Coast. The FDA has been closely monitoring tea ever since.

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Imported Seafood

Roughly 80 percent of the seafood we eat is imported, hailing from regions in Southeast Asia, which could have more lax regulatory procedures according to Caroline Smith DeWaal of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

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Contaminated Supplements

The USDA has prohibited the import of meat from countries with a history of mad cow disease outbreaks; however, this rule doesn’t apply to dietary supplements. The FDA has been keeping a watch for contamination in shipments of supplements.

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Leafy Greens

Leafy greens have caused 363 outbreaks. 13,568 reported illnesses too, which probably because greens are not cooked at a temperature that would kill off bacteria. Norovirus accounted for 64 percent of the cases and comes from unwashed hands.

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Melamine In Milk

The FDA has kept a close watch on milk products from China ever since 2008, when thousands of babies became ill from a contaminated formula. The culprit was a chemical called melamine, which is toxic if swallowed. Keep an eye out for products that list milk as an ingredient like yogurt, frozen desserts, chocolate, cakes, cookies, soft candies and beverages.

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The FDA is always hard at work making sure our food supply stays safe. Curious about what else the FDA has recalled recently? Read on for more!

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Angel Food Cake

Recently the FDA recalled several Angel Food Cake products because they contained soy and milk allergens. The FDA requires foods with potential allergens to be listed on the item. The FDA was concerned that people with allergies or sensitivity toward milk and soy could have potentially fatal reactions, but no illnesses were reported.

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Ready-Made Salads

The FDA discovered Listeria monocytogenes in several ready-to-eat salads, slaw and dips. The organism can cause very serious and potentially fatal infections in young children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems, but fortunately no illnesses were reported.

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Pork Dumplings

Several frozen pork dumplings were found to contain allergens like shellfish and fish, but no illnesses were brought to the attention of the FDA.

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Turmeric

The FDA found unusually high contents of lead -- about 28 parts per million -- in a turmeric spice powder, which they then recalled. High levels of lead are particularly risky to infants, small children and pregnant women.

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Almond Butter

Several almond butter products were voluntarily recalled when metallic fragments were found in some items. The recall was more of a cautionary measure and no one was harmed from the fragments.

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Ice Cream

When metallic shavings were found in a few ice creams, a voluntarily recalled occurred on several products and the FDA received no reports of illness.

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Dietary Supplements

The FDA found traces of Sibutramine in a dietary supplement, which prompted the company to issue a recall. Sibutramine was removed from US Markets in 2010 because it can increase blood pressure and poses risks for individuals with a history of coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, stroke or arrhythmias.

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Bell Peppers

The FDA found Salmonella in several red and green bell peppers recently and advised a recall. Salmonella can cause serious infections in young children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems.

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Muffins

Undeclared soy was found in over 4,000 apple-cinnamon muffins. Since soy can cause bad reactions for those with soy allergies, the product was recalled.

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Smoked Fish

When it was discovered that several smoked fish items were not cooked properly, all of the products were recalled for fear of Clostridium botulinum contamination. This bacterium can cause illness or even death, but there were no illnesses reported.

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The current compromise provides only a fraction of the funding Trump had sought for a border wall, providing instead for roughly $1.6 billion for physical barriers and technology along the U.S.-Mexico border, according to a GOP source familiar with negotiations. A Democratic source said that the amount only includes $641 million for 33 miles of new border fencing, not a concrete wall.

In recent days, the White House had requested $25 billion for President Trump's proposed border wall over three years in exchange for a 2.5 year extension for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA), the program President Obama created in 2012 to defer deportations for people who came to the U.S. illegally as children. Democrats rejected that offer.

According to the GOP source, this deal does not address DACA, which the Trump administration had announced last September that it would end, tasking Congress with coming up with a legislative solution.

Sources said the measure would provide a backdoor for construction to begin on the Gateway Project, a new rail tunnel connecting New York and New Jersey, by making some of the federal funding supporters wanted available through money appropriated for Amtrak and other accounts. As much as $541 million in funding will be available for the project this year and an extra $2.9 billion in grants would be made available for it, the Democratic source said.

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6 ways government shutdowns hurt you
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6 ways government shutdowns hurt you

What Happens During a Government Shutdown?

When a spending bill expires before Congress passes a new bill authorizing spending, the federal government shuts down most operations.

With spending stuck in limbo while all parties come to an agreement, the federal government runs out of money, forcing the closure.

During a government shutdown, essential services carry on. These include national security, law enforcement, emergency medical services, air traffic control and more.

But services considered non-essential stop, which can still affect your everyday life.

5 Things That Could be Tough During a Government Shutdown

Each government shutdown is different, but here are some things that could become more difficult or impossible if federal operations are forced to go on hold.

(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

1. Planning a Trip to a National Park or Monument

You can’t go to a national park or monument during a shutdown — they’ll be closed. This includes national zoos and museums, too. According to Vox, the 2013 government shutdown cost $500 million in lost tourism income due to national park closures.

(Photo: Zion National Park; Getty)

2. Getting a Passport

During the last shutdown, the State Department continued passport and visa operations because those functions are funded by fees, not government spending. 

We reached out to the National Passport Information Center back in April when the possibility of a shutdown loomed. The representative we spoke to said it’s unclear how a present-day shutdown would affect services, adding that multiple factors go into determining whether you’ll still be able to obtain a passport during a shutdown.

3. Using Free School Lunch Programs

Free school lunch programs will continue during a government shutdown — as long as it doesn’t last too long. If a shutdown goes on for an extended period, school districts might run out of funds to provide the free meals — as some districts worried would occur during the 2013 shutdown.

(Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda/Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)

4. Signing up for New Social Security Benefits

Social Security benefits will continue going out to existing enrollees, but new applications for benefits may have to wait until after the shutdown to be processed.

5. Buying a Home

If you were planning to use a federal loan, like a Federal Housing Administration-insured loan or a Veterans Affairs loan, to purchase a house, the agencies will still process it — depending on a few factors.

During the 2013 government shutdown, the FHA released an FAQ stating it would still process single-family loans, though it warned that it could take extra time because of a reduced staff. Delays could occur for other reasons, like if you need to obtain documents from the IRS.

Are you a veteran? Thankfully, it’s unlikely that a shutdown would affect your VA loans.

6. Your Tax Refund

And, perhaps, the worst of all, depending on the time of year: If you’re waiting for a tax refund from the IRS and the government shuts down, you’ll have to wait until it reopens to get your money.

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Trump had quietly threatened a veto of the bill if it contained funding for Gateway, but Republican lawmakers who represent districts in the region were lobbying him to support the effort. The Democratic source said that the Department of Transportation will have "a limited ability to withhold the funding" despite Trump's opposition to the project, and that the bill includes language that requires the transportation secretary to sign off on grants in compliance with requirements in current law. At the same time, this portion of the bill can be viewed as a compromise because it doesn't make as much available for the project as originally requested.

The deal would not cut funding for Planned Parenthood and there are no provisions that defund so-called "sanctuary cities," said the Democratic source, who added that the bill also provides for more than $300 million above the Trump administration's request for the FBI's efforts to fight Russian cyberattacks in 2018. The bill also offers a $2.8 billion increase to help battle the opioid epidemic.

A major funding increase for school safety was expected in the spending bill. Two Republican sources familiar with ongoing negotiations said Tuesday that the bill would provide more than $2 billion for school safety, which is far more than the $50 million the House passed in the STOP School Violence Act and more than the $100 million in the Senate version of a similar bill. Democrats have argued that the $2 billion figure is Republican spin because that total includes money for programs that already exist. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer's office said that the actual amount may be as much as $250 million on new programs to ensure school safety. The bill does not provide money for arming teachers.

Republicans won't be able to pass the measure alone — at least in the Senate, where 60 votes are required to end debate and advance the bill, they will need Democratic votes. Republicans currently have 51 senators, while Democrats have 49.

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