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House inks short-term spending bill; Senate goes home

House Speaker Paul Ryan at a news conference

House Speaker Paul Ryan at a news conference on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018, about avoiding a government shutdown hours before the House passed a bill that would keep the government running for four weeks. Credit: THEW/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

WASHINGTON — The possibility of a government shutdown at midnight on Friday loomed large after Senate Republicans chose to adjourn late Thursday night rather than fail in a vote to overcome a Democratic filibuster of the short-term spending bill passed by House Republicans.

The Senate will reconvene Friday morning at 11 a.m. to resume debate on how to avert a shutdown as Democrats insist that any bill should also include legislation to extend protection to immigrants brought here illegally as children — a demand Republicans reject.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), noting the program doesn’t expire until March, placed the blame on Democrats for their persistence in pushing an issue that has no immediated urgency.

“That’s an issue of illegal immigration,” McConnell said, “They are prepared to shut down the government over the issue of illegal immigration.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), placed the blame on President Donald Trump for sending unclear messages about what he would accept in an immigration bill for the so-called Dreamers, and Republicans for pushing a short-term bill without consulting Democrats.

“To delay a vote on cloture when we all know the outcome makes no sense. The government funding expires tomorrow night at midnight. Let’s move forward,” Schumer said.

He explained the urgency of the legislation by saying it will be hard to pass as a stand alone bill in February. Any bill getting a majority of Republicans in the Senate won’t pass in the House, Schumer said, and any bill passed by Republicans in the House won’t be passed in the Senate.

Earlier Thursday night, in a largely party-line 230 to 197 vote, House Republicans approved a stopgap measure to fund the federal government for another four weeks, extend a popular child health insurance program, and delay medical-device and -plan taxes — but omitted the immigration measure Democrats demanded.

“We can pass a noncontroversial, bipartisan bill to keep the government open,” McConnell said, “or Democrats can create a manufactured crisis and shut down the government on the entirely unrelated issue — the entirely unrelated issue of immigration.”

Without the pressure of a possible government shutdown, Schumer said, Republicans would have no reason to negotiate to save the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, which Trump ordered to expire on March 5.

“The president rescinded DACA four or five months ago. If he hadn’t rescinded it, we wouldn’t be here today,” Schumer said. “And he told Congress to fix it. And yet the majority leader of his party seems to have no idea what policy he would support.”

Trump has roiled the negotiations and political maneuvering in Congress by sending mixed signals on the spending bill, which addresses the DACA expiration and the renewal of the Child Health Insurance Program to lure Democratic votes.

Trump tweeted Thursday morning that the six-year extension of the Child Health Insurance Program, which expired on Sept. 30 and serves 9 million children nationally, should not be in the spending bill — but the White House later said he supported it.

Trump’s rejection of a bipartisan plan to address DACA prompted co-sponsor Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to announce he would vote against the short-term spending bill.

“We need additional funding for our military,” Graham said in a statement. “We also need some direction about the path forward for 800,000 DACA recipients who know no home other than the United States.”

Meanwhile, Trump and Republican congressional leaders stepped up pressure on Democrats, accusing them of using military funding as a bargaining chip to force a deal to fix DACA.

“My friends on the other side of the aisle do not oppose a single thing in this bill,” McConnell said, asking why Democrats “would filibuster government funding and shut down vital programs for Americans because we have not yet agreed on the best way to settle an unrelated issue we have at least until March to resolve. Let’s fund the government.”

Republicans, who control the upper chamber with the slim 51-member majority, will need the support of several Democrats to break an expected filibuster requiring 60 votes.

According to news reports, nearly all Senate Democrats have said they would vote against the measure. Only Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), running for re-election in November in a state that overwhelming supported Trump, said he would vote for it.

Schumer said there is strong opposition to the short-term spending measure known as a “continuing resolution.”

“When are our Republican leaders going to learn that the best way to govern, the best way to accomplish things, is to talk to us?“ Schumer asked. “It doesn’t look good for the continuing resolution coming over from the House.”

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