House passes measure to avoid government shutdown

Camille Fine

House Republicans on Thursday evening narrowly passed a stopgap measure to avoid a government shutdown, one day before the deadline.

GOP leaders’ struggle to clinch the 231-188 vote demonstrated how, despite being fresh off their tax-overhaul victory, House Republicans remain bitterly divided when it comes to spending legislation.

With House Democrats refusing to supply votes to help pass the spending bill, Republicans were left to pull together the votes among themselves.{mosads}

Current government funding runs out after Friday. The short-term spending patch, which keeps federal agencies funded through Jan. 19, now heads to the Senate, where it’s not clear yet whether Democrats will vote to break a filibuster.

The continuing resolution also includes funding through March for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), a short-term extension of the government’s foreign surveillance powers, some spending “anomalies” for defense and a waiver for pay-as-you-go budgetary rules so the GOP tax bill doesn’t trigger automatic cuts to Medicare.

But the continuing resolution leaves some of the most contentious decisions unresolved, kicking debate over issues like immigration and ObamaCare to next year.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the upper chamber is ready to take up the stopgap bill as soon as it lands on their doorstep.

The whip count in the House remained in question in the hours leading up to the vote Thursday.

GOP defense hawks were furious that the bill didn’t provide full-year funding for defense programs — something Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) promised his conference earlier this month. The defense-first strategy would have been dead on arrival in the Senate.

But many defense hawks backed off their demands and came on board with the plan, clearing one of the major hurdles standing in leadership’s way.

“It’s also clear we’re not going to fix it this week, and I think partly the partisanship that has overflown from tax reform and so forth prevents — and decisions that some of the participants have made — prevent us from being able to have a [Budget Control Act] cap appropriation deal available,” said Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

“So I will support the [continuing resolution] to give us some time and space to get to that point,” he said.

Senate Democrats, whose votes are needed to break a filibuster, insisted that any spending bill must offer parity for both defense and domestic programs.

Hours before the continuing resolution vote, President Trump urged House Republicans to get on board and pass the stopgap bill to avoid distracting from tax reform.

The tax overhaul passed this week is the GOP’s biggest legislative accomplishment to date since taking across-the-board control of Washington this year, but public polling shows it is broadly unpopular due to perceptions that it primarily benefits corporations and the wealthy.

“House Democrats want a SHUTDOWN for the holidays in order to distract from the very popular, just passed, Tax Cuts. House Republicans, don’t let this happen. Pass the C.R. TODAY and keep our Government OPEN!” Trump tweeted Thursday.

House GOP leaders pushed a similar message to dissuade their rank-and-file from risking a damaging shutdown.

“It would be an act of political malpractice after successful tax reform to shut the government down. Talk about stepping on your own message. I mean really, how dumb would that be?” said Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee.

But when lawmakers return to Washington in January, they will have to quickly grapple with all the sticky issues left unfinished this week.

House and Senate leaders will seek a bipartisan budget agreement, which would lay the groundwork for an appropriations package to fund agencies for the rest of the 2018 fiscal year.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) dropped demands that measures to help stabilize the ObamaCare insurance marketplaces be included in the stopgap bill this week, but she is still seeking to get it done in early 2018.

Democrats are also pushing to get a permanent fix in January for young immigrants in the U.S. illegally. The Trump administration is phasing out the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which provided temporary work permits for qualifying young immigrants.

Republicans are seeking border security measures in exchange for enacting protections for the young immigrants who identify as “Dreamers.”

McConnell said Thursday that if negotiators can reach an immigration deal in January, he will bring it up for a vote.

House lawmakers voted 251-169 to pass a separate $81 billion disaster aid package that members of the Texas and Florida delegations insisted be approved this year, though it’s unclear if the Senate will be able to take it up before lawmakers skip town.

The massive package provides aid for communities affected by recent hurricanes in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as wildfires in California.

But some conservatives balked at spending $81 billion without offsets, while House Democratic leaders had pushed against the relief package because they said it didn’t go far enough.

Some Democrats representing regions hit by natural disasters nonetheless supported the emergency aid bill. Rep. Mike Thompson (D), for instance, whose district includes California’s wine country devastated by wildfires, was among the Democrats to vote for it.

Overall, 69 Democrats voted for disaster aid, while 14 voted for the continuing resolution once it was clear it had the votes to pass.

Sixteen Republicans voted against the continuing resolution, while 51 voted against disaster aid.

Tags Charlie Dent Donald Trump Mac Thornberry Mike Thompson Mitch McConnell Paul Ryan Susan Collins

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