The Senate and House have both passed a measure to keep federal agencies open past Friday, sending the stopgap bill to President Trump for his signature.
The measure will extend the continuing resolution past its Friday deadline and provide fiscal 2017 funding levels across government through Jan. 19. The bill will also kick the can down the road 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 will 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 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, has contributed to the party declining to back the new CR.
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“We have no confidence than 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 that 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 successfully convinced most of her caucus to vote against the measure, saying in a message Wednesday evening the bill did not advance the party’s interests.
Republicans were scrambling Wednesday and Thursday to secure the necessary votes without assistance from Democrats. They were ultimately able to secure just enough support, despite the concerns of various factions within their party.
The Senate acted quickly to avoid a shutdown, passing the measure Thursday evening just hours after receiving it from the House. Democrats threatened to withhold their support in the upper chamber as well. 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 boost 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.”
President Trump, who has previously expressed support for shutting down the government, lobbied in favor of the CR on Thursday.
Some lawmakers were making contingency plans this week in the event that Congress failed to act. Reps. Don Beyer, D-Va., and Rob Wittman, R-Va., introduced a bill to ensure all federal employees receive backpay if the government shuts down. About 850,000 federal employees would be sent home without pay during a lapse in appropriations.
This story has been updated to reflect the Senate vote.