Congress Has a Plan to Avoid a Shutdown, But Is Still Working on the Votes

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said her caucus had issues with the offsets Republicans laid out to pay for several programs. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said her caucus had issues with the offsets Republicans laid out to pay for several programs. Susan Walsh/AP

House Republicans have a plan to keep federal agencies open past Friday, but without Democrats on board they are having some trouble ensuring they have enough votes to avoid a government shutdown.

The measure would extend the current continuing resolution past its Friday deadline and provide fiscal 2017 funding levels across government through Jan. 19. The bill would also punt on several thorny issues that have upended negotiations in recent days, such as programs to provide children with health insurance, to allow Veterans Affairs Department patients to receive private care and to enable government surveillance. The latest CR would also delay any sequester of funds for both defense and domestic spending until after its expiration.

Lawmakers continue to negotiate a longer-term plan to fund agencies through the rest of fiscal 2018, including an agreement to raise the spending caps under the 2011 Budget Control Act. Republicans have proposed increasing the limit on defense by $54 billion and non-defense by $37 billion. Democrats have insisted that Congress raise the caps equally for both categories. The lack of progress in those talks, Democratic leaders said, is one reason the party is declining to back the new CR.

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“We have no confidence that any extension will get us to any further agreement,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said before the House Rules Committee Thursday morning as the panel was considering the bill.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., added her caucus had issues with the offsets Republicans laid out to pay for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the boost for the Veterans Choice Program without an equal increase for internal VA care and the failure to address the status of certain undocumented immigrants. Pelosi sent a letter to her fellow Democrats Wednesday evening asking them to be a “strong no” on the CR “unless we see a respect for our values and priorities.”

Republicans were scrambling Wednesday night and Thursday morning to secure the necessary votes without assistance from Democrats. House members were cautiously optimistic the measure would pass, but have not yet set a time for a vote. The bill could also run into problems in the Senate, where it will need some Democratic support to pass the 60-vote threshold. On Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said his party would not support the measure because it boosted defense and not domestic spending. The CR includes “anomalies” to increase funding for the Defense Department’s missile defense and ship repairs.

“We will not accept that one way or the other,” Schumer said. “We have said all along there has got to be parity.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaking at an event hosted by Axios Thursday morning, expressed confidence Congress would avoid a shutdown.

“No one wants to do it,” McConnell said. “Occasionally some foolish people have wanted to do it, but no one wants to do it.”

President Trump, who has previously expressed support for shutting down the government, lobbied in favor of the CR on Thursday.

Jack Corrigan contributed to this report.

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