House sends spending bill to keep government open to the Senate
The House of Representatives passed legislation funding most federal agencies through March 23, and the Pentagon for a full fiscal year, roughly two days before the government faces a shutdown.
The bill passed 245-182, but this is just the first step. The bill will next go the Senate, where Democrats are expected to oppose it because it doesn’t also provide longer term money for domestic programs like opioid recovery efforts, transportation, and education.
Senate leaders are expected to strip out the military portion and attempt to pass a broader budget deal that Republicans and Democrats have been negotiating for months. But any changes to the measure mean the House will need to approve legislation before midnight on Thursday to avoid any government shutdown.
Republicans muscled their spending bill through above Democratic objections. GOP leaders tacked on a full year of defense funding to sweeten the deal for conservative and defense hawks in their ranks who have been emphatic that they wouldn’t support the fifth continuing resolution in six months without some kind of certainty for the country’s military.
The mood on Capitol Hill was still optimistic, however, Tuesday afternoon as Democratic and GOP leaders postured they are closer than ever to reaching a budget caps deal that would set the targets for a much larger, and longer term spending bill.
Multiple sources with direct knowledge told CNN Tuesday that budget negotiators are on the verge of a major spending deal.
“We’re on track,” one source told CNN. “Not there yet and there are a lot of technical details to lock in, but we’re on track.”
While top leaders furiously worked to finalize a deal to add to a must-pass spending bill President Donald Trump threatened a government shutdown if Democrats failed to help the GOP strengthen immigration laws.
“If we don’t change it, let’s have a shutdown,” Trump said at a White House session with law enforcement officials and Republican lawmakers. “We’ll do a shutdown and it’s worth it for our country. I’d love to see a shutdown if we don’t get this stuff taken care of.”
He repeated his assertion: “If we have to shut it down because the Democrats don’t want safety, and unrelated but still related, they don’t want to take care of our military, then shut it down. We’ll go with another shutdown.”
The deal emerging in Congress would include an agreement to raise the budget caps and propose significant increases to defense and non-defense domestic spending, and is also likely to include some, if not all of the major outstanding items on the Congressional docket: the $80-plus billion disaster relief bill, the funding for community health centers, plus a series of other health care spending items, as well as a debt ceiling increase.
So far House conservatives have signaled they could support a short-term CR that included a caps deal. In fact, it may be the only way to thread the needle.
“We’re hopeful that we’ll go ahead and attach those numbers to this, fund the military, not hold it hostage and allow it to come back and have a fairly easy bipartisan vote here in the House,” Mark Meadows, the Chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, said. “That being said, if it comes back just a clean CR, it will not be received well on the House side of the Capitol here.”
Democrats had said they wanted to see more assurances on immigration negotiations before moving ahead with the caps deal, but rank-and-file Republicans said they sensed more flexibility from Democrats in recent days.
“There is some discussion that he Democrats have shown some flexibility but I’ve been hearing that for four months,” said Louisiana Republican Sen. John Kennedy. “I got to see it to believe it. I hope it’s true.”