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 ColeTrump faces new hit on deficit History in the House: Congress weathers unprecedented week White House, Congress inch toward debt, budget deal 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 TrumpCould Donald Trump and Boris Johnson be this generation's Reagan-Thatcher? Merkel backs Democratic congresswomen over Trump How China's currency manipulation cheats America on trade 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-BalartHouse votes to condemn Trump for 'racist comments' Overnight Defense: House passes T spending package with defense funds | Senate set to vote on blocking Saudi arms sales | UN nominee defends climate change record House passes amendment to block funding for transgender troops ban 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 DentAnyone for tennis? Washington Kastles Charity Classic returns this week CNN celebrates correspondents' weekend with New Orleans-themed brunch The Hill's Morning Report - Government is funded, but for how long? 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 MeadowsLawmakers request documents on DC councilman ethics investigation House Republicans dismissive of Paul Ryan's take on Trump The 27 Republicans who voted with Democrats to block Trump from taking military action against Iran 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.