With just four days left to approve a spending measure, Congress appears to be on the precipice of a government shutdown.
Just last Thursday, developments on multiple issues seemed to be moving toward a bipartisan solution to the spending impasse, as a House committee chairman announced he would bring forward a long-term extension to the Children’s Health Insurance Program and a bipartisan group of senators said they had reached a deal to protect participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration program. Democrats have said these two issues must be resolved for them to support any spending package.
But shortly thereafter, The Washington Post reported that President Trump had panned the immigration accord in a meeting with Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., in which the president reportedly asked why the United States must take in immigrants from “shithole countries” like Haiti, El Salvador and nations in Africa, instead of countries like Norway.
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Since then, talks have broken down. The White House has in equal parts denied and doubled down on Trump’s alleged comments, and the president tweeted several times over the weekend to accuse Democrats of not wanting to reach a deal.
Congress has until Friday night to avert a government shutdown. Although in previous months, lawmakers were able to pass a short-term continuing resolution to give themselves more time to negotiate, some have indicated that their patience has run out.
“I think, as we get closer and closer to this deadline, and as the rhetoric is amped up on both sides . . . I think [a shutdown] is more likely than not,” Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., told NBC News. “But no one should want a shutdown.”
Congress also must approve increased budget caps for defense and non-defense spending, which currently restrict government spending to $549 billion for defense and $516 billion for non-defense agencies in fiscal 2018. If the caps are not raised, then sequestration will kick in later this month as a result of the 2011 Budget Control Act. Democrats have advocated increasing the caps equally for both defense and non-defense spending.
Last week, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said on the floor that the GOP leadership would bring forward a short-term CR this week, while negotiators finalize the deal on spending caps.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters Tuesday that he was “hopeful” that lawmakers could reach an agreement on government budget caps. But he stressed that DACA must be addressed in any measure to keep the government open in order for Democrats to support it. And he further complicated matters by noting that he believed Trump’s comments last week were “certainly racist.”
“While there are many reasons why we would be opposed to kicking the can down the road, we haven’t made that decision yet,” Hoyer said.