The three things standing between Congress and a government shutdown
The federal government runs out of funding on Friday and as of Wednesday afternoon neither the House nor the Senate had voted on a bill to keep it open.
While it’s considered likely they get a short-term funding bill passed before the government is forced into a partial shutdown, there’s a lot that needs to happen before Friday at midnight.
House Republicans introduced a bill that would keep the government funded at the current levels for another two weeks over the weekend. The House Rules Committee was supposed to meet to discuss the bill Tuesday and the full House was expected to vote Wednesday. However, pushback from some conservatives within the caucus forced everything to be delayed by at least a day. Even if it sails through the House without a hitch Thursday, it must still make it through the Senate. While there are enough Republicans in the House to pass legislation along party lines, the narrow GOP margin in the Senate means at least eight Democratic votes will be needed to approve a spending bill.
After it’s made it through both chambers, the bill has to be signed by President Trump. Depending on what time that is done, the president may not be in the White House, he may be in Florida Friday night for a campaign rally. However, Trump’s aides could use a mechanical device known as the “autopen” to sign the legislation if he isn’t in the White House. Former president Barack Obama used the device multiple times, including on a two-week highway funding bill.
GOP leaders in the House have faced pushback from conservatives who want a guarantee that military funding won’t get caught up in the next round of budget talks.
House conservatives say they’ll be more inclined to support a short-term spending bill if the next time one comes up — as soon as the end of this month — it doesn’t include military spending. They’d like to see defense spending put into its own bill and funded through the end of the fiscal year. Conservatives believe in an increase in military funding but they’d like to hold the line on non-defense spending. Democrats support increasing defense and non-defense spending equally.
Hardline conservative House Freedom Caucus Chair Mark Meadows, R-N.C., has been in and out of negotiations with House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-WIs., over the last two days. He told reporters that he’d be open to adding Democratic priorities to the separate bill to try and force Democrats to support it in the Senate
One of those may be legislation co-sponsored by GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington that is designed to stabilize the insurance markets created by the Affordable Care Act by giving subsidies to insurance companies.
Conservatives say that bill is a bailout to insurance companies. But on Wednesday Meadows said he thought “many’ conservatives would be willing to combine that legislation with defense funding if it meant getting Democratic support.
Many Democrats — and a growing number of moderate Republicans — are calling on Congress to find a permanent solution before the end of the year for the 800,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and received protection under an Obama-era executive order.
In September, Trump ended that order and gave Congress six months to come up with a solution. Republican leaders say there is no reason to rush what needs to be a bipartisan negotiation on how to protect those covered by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), called Dreamers, and help prevent future illegal immigration.
But Democrats say the issue needs to be dealt with before the end of the year and some are even threatening to hold government funding hostage over the issue.
Republicans “are willing to enter into good faith negotiations. But it simply does not advance the interests of these DACA recipients to try to force this into a shut-down narrative and to jeopardize our national security and other governmental functions just in order to help these young adults,” Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, told reporters Wednesday. “We do want to resolve this but it’s not going to be before the end of this year.”
But Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin — who is leading the call to pass a bill before the end of the year that would provide a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients — said that what Republican leaders have presented so far “cannot be considered a good faith effort to provide protection for the Dreamers.”
Trump said Wednesday that a shut-down was possible because of Democrats.
“The Democrats may … want to shut down the country because they want people flowing into our country,” said Trump during a Cabinet meeting, referring to illegal immigration.
House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., replied in a tweet that Trump is the only one talking about a shutdown. “Democrats are hopeful the president will be open to an agreement to address the urgent needs of the American people and keep government open,” she said.
Trump, Pelosi, Ryan, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., are scheduled to meet Thursday to discuss funding, and immigration is bound to come up.
In a statement Thursday White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said that Trump was “pleased” the Democrats had decided to attend the meeting and that the administration “hopes to find fiscally responsible ways to avoid a government shutdown, address the looming sequester and devastating cuts facing our military, as well as fund important domestic priorities that will encourage economic prosperity and keep