Government funding negotiations continue to grab headlines in Washington, as factions from both parties have taken hard lines on issues ranging from immigration to defense spending ahead of this Friday’s funding deadline. House Republican leaders took the first substantive attempt at breaking the impasse last night by releasing a continuing resolution (CR) that would fund the government for four weeks, extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for six years, and delay the implementation of certain Affordable Care Act (ACA) taxes. The funding package’s health care add-ons are intended to appeal to both sides, as conservatives will be pleased with the ACA tax delay and Democrats will appreciate the six-year extension of CHIP.
It’s set up to be a short and busy week in Washington as lawmakers return from the three-day weekend to a government that will shut down on Friday if Congress is unable to reach a funding solution. Odds are still in favor of congressional brinkmanship ultimately leading to a short-term continuing resolution (CR) that will keep the government running through Presidents’ Day, but with only a three-day window to pass such a measure, there will be little room for error. Adding to the uncertainty, House Democrats may line up against any spending measure that does not include a deal on immigration, meaning that Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) will need to avoid major defections from the budget hawks in his caucus that typically oppose the use of CRs.
The Week in Review
Both chambers began their 2018 legislative work in earnest last week with the top headline being the ongoing funding negotiations to keep the government open past Jan. 19. Despite fervent behind-the-scenes discussions between lawmakers and White House officials for a long-term omnibus to set funding for the remainder of the fiscal year, Republican leaders signaled last week that the passage of another stopgap spending bill will be needed to keep the government running beyond Friday.
Republican leadership will be gearing up for a busy and contentious week, as the government funding deadline of Jan. 19 looms next week. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) announced that the House will consider another short term continuing resolution (CR) next week that would keep the government open through the Presidents’ Day holiday next month. With Democrats threatening to withhold their votes until a deal is reached on immigration, GOP leaders may be forced to pass the CR without Democratic support.
Despite fervent behind-the-scenes negotiations in Congress, the passage of another stopgap spending bill to keep the government funded past Jan. 19 is growing increasingly likely. This is primarily due to the contentious split on immigration and the deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) program as rank-and-file members in both parties appear to have drawn lines in the sand over what can be included in any compromise. A rumored continuing resolution (CR) would provide funding through the Presidents’ Day holiday next month and include similar short-term fixes for the program deadlines tied to the funding bill, such as the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). While many budget hawks will have serious hesitations about voting for another short-term extension, it seems the most likely outcome given that the current continuing resolution is due to expire in just over a week.
Yesterday saw two significant developments in the immigration piece of ongoing negotiations on a deal to fund the government and address other deadline-oriented legislative items. First, President Trump hosted a bipartisan meeting at the White House to discuss immigration and signaled that he may be open to a deal that not only protects those covered by the deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) program, but also a comprehensive immigration proposal that would provide a legal answer for the millions of illegal immigrants currently living in the United States. While the meeting was generally well-received by both parties, lawmakers appear no closer to striking an omnibus agreement that would fund the government through the end of September.
Government funding negotiations continue to stall, as congressional Republicans and While House officials are growing increasingly skeptical that a long term budget agreement will be reached in the next 11 days. Party leaders from both sides of the aisle have been working to raise stiff spending caps before the Jan. 19 deadline, yet Democrats and Republicans are still far apart on many key issues — most notably, border security and immigration provisions. President Trump 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. With no agreement in sight, it likely means that another short-term continuing resolution (CR) will be needed to keep the government open.
Welcome to 2018!
Hard to believe but there are only 303 days between now and the mid-term elections. As has been the case of late, Congress starts the year looking to finish many of the issues that were punted at the end of last year – such as a long-term funding bill, a DACA fix, disaster relief, and CHIP funding. Once those are dealt with Congress can immediately turn to its 2018 agenda, and while the conventional wisdom holds that not a lot can be done in an election year, it seems that like its predecessor, 2018 could shape up to be an unconventional year.
Both chambers will convene this week to start their 2018 legislative work in earnest. Most policy attention will focus on funding negotiations to keep the government open past Jan. 19, with disaster aid emerging as a new divisive issue between the two parties. The House passed an $81 billion relief package before the holidays, but Senate Democrats are opposing that measure in the upper chamber over concerns that it doesn’t provide enough support for disaster-struck areas, most notably Puerto Rico. Republicans have accused the minority of slow-walking desperately needed aid, adding another wrinkle to the funding debate with just two legislative weeks left before the next government shutdown deadline.
The Week in Review
The second session of the 115th Congress got off to a slow start as the House elected to take the week off and the Senate’s work was hampered by severe weather along the Atlantic Coast. The week’s most significant legislative development saw the swearing in of two new Democratic senators, Tina Smith (D-MN) and Doug Jones (D-AL). Sen. Smith, formerly the lieutenant governor of Minnesota, was selected by Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton to replace Al Franken and is expected to run in the special election for Franken’s permanent replacement this fall. Sen. Jones takes the normally Republican-held seat in Alabama after winning the state’s special election in December, narrowing the Republican advantage in the Senate to 51-49.