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Congress reaches deal to fund government through Dec. 7, preventing shutdown
The House and Senate on Thursday reached a deal to prevent a shutdown by passing a large package of spending bills this month along with a continuing resolution that would fund the rest of the government through December 7.
The package would keep the government funded past Oct. 1, the deadline for Congress to act.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) on Thursday said that the two bodies had completed work on the Defense and Labor, Health and Human Services and Education bills, which represent a lion's share of annual appropriations.
"It's a quick way to spend $800 billion," quipped Rep. Tom Cole, the lead Republican appropriator on the labor bill. The combined $786 billion in the two bills represents 65 percent of the annual appropriations allocated for 2019.
Including the continuing resolution (CR) in the package would make it difficult for President Trump to make good on threats to shut down the government over border wall funding.
"If it happens it happens. If it's about border security, I'm willing to do anything," Trump said last week when asked about a possible shutdown, though he has also indicated at times that he would prefer to avoid a shutdown ahead of the November midterm election.
The wall's funding is part of the Department of Homeland Security bill, which is included in the CR, meaning Trump would also have to veto the defense bill if he wanted to make good on his threat.
"The president will have to sign this bill into law or shut down the government, as it contains the continuing resolution," said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), the ranking member of the House Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies subcommittee.
The White House did not say if Trump was still considering a veto for the bill.
"We are looking forward to reviewing the bill when it is released," said White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters.
Cole said he was confident that the White House would be on board.
"It doesn't make a lot of sense to shut down the government. We'll fight that fight when it comes, but this isn't the time to have it," he said.
House Republicans upset that the package left out conservative policy riders, he said, would have to weigh whether they wanted to vote against the defense bill, he added.
Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.), the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, the largest House GOP caucus, said it would be tough for conservatives to back the bill.
"In the next round of appropriations, conservatives are looking for the conferenced legislation to reflect conservative policy riders such as the ones in the House bill. Unless this is done, many of our members will find it difficult to support this funding," he said.
The deal on the Defense and Labor bills marked an unusually productive advance in the Congressional appropriations process. The two chambers had failed to approve a conferenced defense bill on time in over a decade, and a Labor bill in 22 years.
"Pairing these two bills was the lynchpin of our strategy to pass appropriations bills in the Senate," said Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Al.).
"This is a tremendous step forward on our goal of returning to regular order," Frelinghuysen added.
The House is expected to pass a first finalized package of three spending bills on Thursday, following the Senate's passage on Wednesday. The two chambers convened on a third package on Thursday as well, but have not yet worked out differences in their bills.
Updated at 2:34 p.m.
Jordan Fabian contributed to this report.