House lawmakers predict another short-term spending bill

House lawmakers predict another short-term spending bill
© Greg Nash

House appropriators returning to Washington on Monday predicted that another short-term spending bill will be needed to avoid a government shutdown next week as budget negotiations have stalled amid a contentious fight over immigration. 

“I do believe we’ll need another [continuing resolution (CR)], hopefully short term,” Rep. Tom ColeThomas (Tom) Jeffrey ColeLawmakers see shutdown’s odds rising Week ahead: Lawmakers eye another short-term spending bill GOP leaders face most difficult shutdown deadline yet MORE (R-Okla.), an appropriations cardinal, told The Hill on Monday.

The government has been operating under a series of short-term extensions since the start of fiscal 2018, with the current CR set to expire on Jan. 19. 

Lawmakers were optimistic before leaving town for the holidays last month that congressional leaders would be able to reach a bipartisan agreement on boosting budget caps, which are needed to avoid automatic spending cuts and lay the groundwork for a massive omnibus package, by next Friday’s deadline. 

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But negotiations appear to have hit a snag as President TrumpDonald John TrumpDems flip Wisconsin state Senate seat Sessions: 'We should be like Canada' in how we take in immigrants GOP rep: 'Sheet metal and garbage' everywhere in Haiti MORE has renewed calls that his proposed border wall be included in any deal over the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which Trump is ending in March. Democrats who are pushing to include protections for young immigrants in a spending bill say that a border wall is a non-starter for them.

The impasse on immigration has also stymied bipartisan work on the budget caps, with Republicans claiming Democrats are slow-walking a deal on top-line spending numbers until they get a DACA fix.

But with no agreement in sight, that means another stopgap bill is almost certain, according to lawmakers who write the spending bills. Appropriators are divided, however, on how long they think the extension will last.

Cole predicted that the next CR will extend government funding until the recess break in mid-February.

“That’s just my guess,” he said.

But Rep. Mario Diaz-BalartMario Rafael Diaz-BalartDems fear ‘Stephen Miller ambush’ on immigration House Republicans press for harder-line immigration bill Even some conservatives seem open to return to earmarks MORE (R-Fla.), another appropriations subcommittee chair, sounded far more optimistic. The Florida Republican told The Hill that he thinks Congress will only need a “very short-term” CR to hold them over while they write the omnibus spending package.

Rep. Charlie DentCharles (Charlie) Wieder DentGOP rep warns of ‘consequences’ for US standing in Africa after ‘s---hole’ remark GOP angst over midterms grows House Republicans press for harder-line immigration bill MORE (R-Pa.), a senior appropriator, said the length of the next CR will depend on when they get a budget agreement.

He said it “generally” takes 30 days to write spending bills after they receive top-line numbers, though Dent noted it could be done quicker.

“But I don’t think we do it in a week,” Dent said.

While House Republican leaders secured enough GOP votes to pass the last CR without the help of Democrats, it's unclear whether frustrated defense hawks and conservatives would back yet another stopgap spending bill.

"I don’t think we’re heading toward a shutdown, but I do think we’re heading toward some very contentious times on the budget," said Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsFreedom Caucus chair: GOP leaders don't have votes to avoid shutdown GOP leaders pitch children's health funding in plan to avert shutdown House to consider another short-term spending bill MORE (R-N.C.), chairman of the far-right House Freedom Caucus. "I would be surprised if we don’t have another CR next Friday."

— Scott Wong contributed this report, which was updated.