This week: Congress seeks to avoid shutdown

Greg Nash

Congress once again faces the task of passing a government funding bill to avoid a shutdown after a one-week reprieve.

Bipartisan negotiators agreed Sunday night on a bill to keep the government running through September, and will move it through the House and Senate this week before government funding runs out after Friday.

Lawmakers approved a week-long funding patch late last week to buy themselves more time for a larger package, after the original deadline of April 28 passed without a deal in place.

{mosads}“This agreement is a good agreement for the American people, and takes the threat of a government shutdown off the table,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y) said Sunday night. 

“The bill ensures taxpayer dollars aren’t used to fund an ineffective border wall, excludes poison pill riders, and increases investments in programs that the middle-class relies on, like medical research, education, and infrastructure.”

“Early on in this debate, Democrats clearly laid out our principles. At the end of the day, this is an agreement that reflects those principles.”

The two of the biggest hurdles — money for the U.S.-Mexico border wall promised by President Trump and key ObamaCare payments to health insurers for low-income consumers — were resolved last week, but dozens of sticking points remained. Those policy riders ranged from Puerto Rico to extending health benefits for coal miners and financial regulations. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would also need every senator to sign off on a deal to speed up the Senate’s consideration of the funding legislation if it doesn’t reach the upper chamber until later in the week.

Trump has tried to place the blame over a potential showdown with Democrats, sending out a series of tweets accusing them of gunning for a shutdown. 

“As families prepare for summer vacations in our National Parks — Democrats threaten to close them and shut down the government. Terrible!” he tweeted as lawmakers continued to negotiate last week. 

But Republicans, who control both Congress and the White House, have had to make concessions to Democrats during the negotiations for two primary reasons: Senate Democrats’ ability to filibuster and expected defections by House conservatives. 

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) noted during her Capitol press conference last week that Democrats have repeatedly been needed to help GOP leaders avert government shutdowns.

“I’ve bailed them out a number of times so that they didn’t shut down government,” Pelosi said. 

Though Democrats objected to including money for specifically for the U.S.-Mexico wall, negotiators are expected to include money for border security that would allow the administration to replace fencing or increase technology. 

Democrats also signaled they were open to more defense spending, considered a key priority for the administration and Republicans. 

Health care

House GOP leaders will keep trying to corral enough votes to pass their revised legislation to repeal and replace ObamaCare, after failing to move it last week in time for President Trump’s 100th day in office.

The group of roughly 30 conservative hardliners known as the House Freedom Caucus endorsed the latest version of the bill last week, providing GOP leaders with significant momentum. 

But the compromise amendment brokered by Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and centrist Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) hasn’t attracted any new support from the GOP’s moderate wing.

Instead, multiple moderate Republicans who previously supported the bill before it was pulled from the floor in March became undecided when the revision was added. And other centrists held firm in their opposition.

The Hill’s whip list showed that at least 21 Republicans planned to vote against the latest bill — just one short of the maximum 22 defections GOP leaders can afford, assuming no Democrats back the bill.

The MacArthur-Meadows amendment would allow states to apply for waivers from key ObamaCare provisions that prevent insurers from charging sick people higher premiums and mandate minimum insurance benefit coverage, so long as high-risk pools are offered.

McCarthy wouldn’t commit to a vote this week, saying only that “I don’t have anything scheduled,” adding hoped the bill would be brought to the floor “as soon as possible.”

In the meantime, the House will vote on bills regarding North Korea and allowing employers to offer workers the choice of converting overtime hours into paid time off instead of overtime wages. 

North Korea

The House will consider legislation to authorize new sanctions against North Korea amid heightened tensions.

A bill authored by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) targets North Korea’s shipping industry and individuals who employ North Korean slave labor abroad.

“It is critical we send a clear and bipartisan message that North Korea’s reckless provocations cannot continue,” McCarthy said while announcing the House floor schedule on Friday. 

Last month, the House easily passed legislation directing the State Department to determine whether North Korea is a state sponsor of terrorism.

Iran, Sudan and Syria are currently the only countries considered by the State Department as state sponsors of terror. But lawmakers have been urging the administration to return North Korea to the list after it was taken off as part of a since-failed nuclear agreement with President George W. Bush’s administration in 2008. 

This week’s measure also orders the Trump administration to report to Congress within 90 days whether North Korea should be re-designated onto the state sponsors of terrorism list. 

The North Korean regime has been escalating its anti-U.S. rhetoric and may be on the verge of another nuclear test.

President Trump, meanwhile, told Reuters late last week that he prefers a diplomatic solution, but warned of potential military action.

“There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea,” Trump said. 


The Senate will take up Jay Clayton’s nomination to be a member of the Securities and Exchange Commission. 

Senators will take an initial vote on Clayton’s nomination Monday evening, setting up a final vote for as late Wednesday morning if lawmakers drag out the clock. 

Clayton was approved by Senate Banking Committee last month with the support of three Democrats: Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) and Jon Tester (Mont.), who are both up for reelection in red states, as well as Sen. Mark Warner (Va.). 

Democrats have raised concerns that Clayton is too close to Wall Street to join an agency that is charged with helping regulate it. 

But Clayton is considered less controversial than some of Trump’s nominees and Democrats can’t block him without help for Republicans. Nominations only need a simple majority to clear the Senate and Republicans have a 52-seat majority. 

Clayton, a former partner at law firm Sullivan & Cromwell, has spent more than 20 years working for Wall Street companies on mergers, acquisitions and federal regulatory compliance.

Tags Chuck Schumer Heidi Heitkamp Jon Tester Mark Warner Mitch McConnell

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