GOP leaders pitch children's health funding in plan to avert shutdown

GOP leaders pitch children's health funding in plan to avert shutdown
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House GOP leaders on Tuesday night pitched a new strategy to avert a looming government shutdown that includes children's health funding and the delay of ObamaCare taxes.

Lawmakers need to pass a short-term stopgap bill by midnight Friday, when money for the federal government runs out. The latest GOP plan would keep the government’s lights on through Feb. 16 and be coupled with a six-year extension of funding for the popular Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

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The continuing resolution (CR) would also delay ObamaCare's medical device and Cadillac taxes for two years, and the health insurance tax for one year starting in 2019.

It would not include relief for immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children, which Democrats have been pushing for.

Rep. Patrick McHenryPatrick Timothy McHenryMnuchin expresses concerns about proposed taxes on financial trades Fed's top regulator takes heat from both parties NC rep explores Tillis primary challenge MORE (R-N.C.), the chief deputy whip, was full of confidence as he left the meeting of House Republicans in the Capitol’s basement.

“I think we’re going to have a good vote and we can move this process forward,” said McHenry, who’s filling in as the GOP’s top vote-counter as Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseTrump welcomes LSU to the White House: 'Go Tigers' Republicans criticize Pelosi for gifting pens used to sign impeachment articles The Hill's Morning Report - Impeachment trial a week away; debate night MORE (R-La.) recovers from a surgery.

Asked if GOP leaders can rally the Republicans needed to pass the CR without any Democrats, McHenry was optimistic — and terse.

“Yep,” he said.

The House could vote as early as Thursday on the stopgap spending measure, with leadership expected to whip the bill on Wednesday.

If House GOP leaders can corral enough votes for the funding extension, the shutdown spotlight would shift to the Senate, where nine Democrats are needed to overcome a filibuster. Republicans are betting enough vulnerable Democratic senators will end up supporting the CR, especially if it includes funding for CHIP.

In the House, however, Democrats are adamantly opposed to any spending bill that does not include protections for recipients of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Trump rescinded the program last year and gave Congress until March 5 to come up with a permanent legal solution, but bipartisan negotiations on a DACA deal have been at a standstill following reports of President TrumpDonald John TrumpNational Archives says it altered Trump signs, other messages in Women's March photo Dems plan marathon prep for Senate trial, wary of Trump trying to 'game' the process Democratic lawmaker dismisses GOP lawsuit threat: 'Take your letter and shove it' MORE’s disparaging remarks about “shithole countries.”

That means House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanEsper's chief of staff to depart at end of January Latinos say they didn't benefit from Trump tax cuts — here's why Conservative commentator rips Trump's signature tax overhaul: 'It was a big mistake' MORE (R-Wis.) will need to rely on GOP votes to pass the fourth temporary funding patch since September.

Leaving the House GOP conference meeting in the Capitol’s basement on Tuesday evening, lawmakers said the reaction to the stopgap spending plan seemed mostly positive.

“From the feel of the room, it looks like they would have the 218,” said Rep. Mark WalkerBradley (Mark) Mark WalkerRepublicans, Democrats offer support after John Lewis cancer diagnosis House GOP vows to use impeachment to cut into Democratic majority A solemn impeachment day on Capitol Hill MORE (R-N.C.), chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, who noted that not a single person who supported the last CR say they’d vote against the latest stopgap measure.

While Walker railed against the CR as a “crap sandwich with moldy bread,” he indicated he was not opposed to the funding bill.

At the moment, it’s not yet certain that the bill can pass with only Republican votes.

Members of the House Freedom Caucus, a band of roughly 30 conservative lawmakers, are divided over the strategy, with Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsRepublicans criticize Pelosi for gifting pens used to sign impeachment articles Trump, Democrats set for brawl on Iran war powers Overnight Defense: Iran crisis eases as Trump says Tehran 'standing down' | Dems unconvinced on evidence behind Soleimani strike | House sets Thursday vote on Iran war powers MORE (R-N.C.) saying he wasn’t sure he could support the CR.  

There was not enough consensus for the far-right group to take a formal position on the stopgap bill, but Meadows emerged from a Freedom Caucus meeting late Tuesday evening saying that they likely had enough votes to defeat the CR.

“There is currently not enough support for the latest leadership initiative,” Meadows told The Hill. “We continue to work with them to find a way to reach consensus on a path forward.”

Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.), another Freedom Caucus leader, also said he was undecided on the stopgap bill. He wants to see a conservative DACA bill authored by House Judiciary Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteUSCIS chief Cuccinelli blames Paul Ryan for immigration inaction Immigrant advocacy groups shouldn't be opposing Trump's raids Top Republican releases full transcript of Bruce Ohr interview MORE (R-Va.) “moving forward in parallel with a CR, so everybody knows where the House is.”

Freedom Caucus Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.) initially said he was leaning “yes” on the stopgap bill, but flipped his position to “lean no” after the group’s Tuesday night meeting. He also wants to see a floor vote on the Goodlatte bill, as well as more certainty for the Pentagon.

But other Freedom Caucus members were more receptive to the CR. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) said earlier that he was leaning “yes” on the funding patch, while Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) said the “potential is there” to win his support, noting he wants to see defense funded for the full year.

GOP leaders also are running into trouble rounding up votes from defense hawks. Both Reps. Bradley ByrneBradley Roberts ByrneGOP lawmaker offers resolution to censure Pelosi for holding articles of impeachment GOP rep releases campaign ad ripping Kaepernick, 'The Squad' GOP rep rails against Democrats for rejecting Republican impeachment amendment MORE (R-Ala.) and Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyThe Hill's Campaign Report: Sanders, Warren feud rattles Democrats The Hill's Morning Report — President Trump on trial The Hill's 12:30 Report: Senate receives impeachment articles as trial opens MORE (R-Wyo.), two members of the House Armed Services Committee, said they may vote against the CR because it harms military readiness and puts U.S. troops at risk.

The defense hawks are demanding that Congress fund the Pentagon at higher levels for the rest of the 2018 fiscal year and pass a short-term CR for the rest of the government.

“A CR does real damage [to the military]; this is the fourth CR,” Cheney told The Hill. “And it’s time for us to pass the [defense] appropriations bill over here and force the Senate to explain why they are holding hostage the funding for our troops.”

But Rep. Mike RogersMichael (Mike) Dennis RogersHillicon Valley: FBI to now notify state officials of cyber breaches | Pelosi rips 'shameful' Facebook | 5G group beefs up lobby team | Spotify unveils playlists for pets 5G group beefs up lobby team House Homeland Security rip DHS's 'unacceptable' failure to comply with subpoena MORE (R-Ala.), chairman of an Armed Services subcommittee, said he would likely be able to support the CR.

While Republicans expressed frustration during the meeting that they have to once again back another CR, many of them acknowledged that it’s better than the alternative: a government shutdown.

“You don’t really have a choice,” said Rep. Joe BartonJoe Linus BartonEx-Tea Party lawmakers turn heads on K Street Longtime GOP aide to launch lobbying shop Katie Hill resignation reignites push for federal 'revenge porn' law MORE (R-Texas), a former Energy and Commerce chairman who is a Freedom Caucus member. “When you control the House, the Senate and the presidency, how can you shut the government down?”

Mike Lillis contributed.

Updated at 11:15 p.m.