House passes bill to avoid shutdown
The House on Thursday passed a two-week stopgap spending bill one day before a deadline to avoid a government shutdown.
House Republicans managed to pass the legislation mostly along party lines in the 235-193 vote, despite often coming short of securing a majority of the majority on measures to keep the government open in recent years.
Fourteen Democrats voted for the measure and 18 Republicans voted “no.”
The spending patch through Dec. 22 gives lawmakers time to negotiate a bipartisan budget deal. At that time, Congress is expected to pass another short-term patch so that appropriators can craft a spending package to keep federal agencies funded through the rest of the 2018 fiscal year.
“I think it’s kind of just basic governing is keeping government going while we negotiate the final details,” said Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).
Ahead of Thursday’s vote, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) made clear that Democrats wouldn’t support the two-week stopgap.
Pelosi emphasized that Democrats don’t want to see a government shutdown, but couldn’t support Thursday’s bill because it doesn’t include their priorities like protections for young immigrants, funding for the opioid crisis and relief for communities affected by recent natural disasters.
“This is a waste of time,” Pelosi said at a press conference in the Capitol.
The Senate is expected to easily clear the two-week stopgap measure as early as Thursday evening. Though Democrats haven’t formally said they will back the legislation, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) noted on Thursday morning that they are making good progress on budget deal talks.
A government shutdown would commence after Friday at midnight if Congress doesn’t pass a spending bill by then.
Members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus were skeptical when GOP leaders first outlined plans to extend government funding to Dec. 22.
Freedom Caucus members are concerned that a deadline close to Christmas will pressure lawmakers to support a spending package loaded with extraneous items that conservatives will loathe.
The Freedom Caucus on Monday initially withheld votes on a motion to go to conference with the Senate on the two chambers’ tax-reform bills to gain leverage over GOP leaders on the spending strategy.
Freedom Caucus members pushed for a Dec. 30 end date instead but ultimately settled for Dec. 22 with a commitment from GOP leaders to push for increased funding for defense programs through 2018 on the next spending bill.
Still, that will likely be a tough sell to Democrats in negotiations over the next two weeks.
“I don’t know that it would be intellectually honest to suggest that there’s a high degree of confidence that that will happen,” House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) acknowledged on Thursday.
Democrats are pushing for the next spending bill to include a legislative fix for young immigrants brought to the U.S. as children who had been granted temporary work permits through the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
The Trump administration announced in September that it will rescind the program. DACA recipients will face deportation if Congress doesn’t act by March.
Democrats are trying to maximize their leverage. Republicans need at least eight Democrats to break a filibuster in the Senate for any spending bill, and often rely on Democrats to make up for GOP defections in the House.
“You want a bipartisan budget and you want my vote? Then make it an American budget. One that includes a pathway to freedom for our Dreamers,” said Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.).
But Meadows warned that GOP leaders would face backlash from Republicans if they agree to Democrats’ demands on immigration in the spending bill. Republicans have said they prefer to deal with DACA separately.
“If DACA gets attached to the spending bill, there will be major, major pushback,” Meadows said.
– Melanie Zanona and Jordain Carney contributed.
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