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Congress seeks to avoid another shutdown Thursday

By
Allen Cone
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) arrives at the Captiol as negotiations continue in the Senate on the third day of a government shutdown in Washington, DC, on January 22. Congress has until Thursday to pass a spending bill to avoid another government shutdown. Photo by Erin Schaff/UPI
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) arrives at the Captiol as negotiations continue in the Senate on the third day of a government shutdown in Washington, DC, on January 22. Congress has until Thursday to pass a spending bill to avoid another government shutdown. Photo by Erin Schaff/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 5 (UPI) -- Congress is dealing with another possible government shutdown because short-term funding legislation expires Thursday.

On Tuesday, the House plans to vote on a continuing resolution -- possibly for six weeks -- to fund the government because a House Democratic retreat on Maryland's Eastern Shore is planned for Wednesday. The Republicans conducted their annual retreat last in West Virginia to go over their legislative priorities.

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Last month, the government ran out of money and nonessential services closed for three days.

"I don't think we'll see a threat [of a] government shutdown again. ... One of my favorite old Kentucky country sayings is 'There's no education in the second kick of a mule,' and so I think there will be a new level of seriousness here trying to resolve these issues," Senate Majority Leder Mitch McConnell told reporters at the Republican retreat.

RELATED Senators to present bipartisan immigration, border security bill

Senate Democrats agreed to keep the government running for 2-1/2 more weeks after ending their holdout to address the status of 800,000 undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers who arrived in the United States as children. They supported a short-term spending bill that doesn't address immigration because McConnell promised that he will allow debate on Dreamers legislation.

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Their protection ends on March 5. Last September, President Donald Trump said the executive order signed by former President Barack Obama to protect the Dreamers from deportation and urged Congress to pass legislation.

GOP leaders hope to introduce 1 1/2-month funding bill that doesn't address immigration.

Republicans are at odds on what to include in the funding bill. Some defense hawks want a big increase in Pentagon spending.

"We've got to get a deal on [budget] caps," said Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune, R-S.D. "We have too many people, too many Republicans who are adamant that we got to come up with a defense number that takes into consideration the requirements that we need to meet for national security."

Democrats want equal increases in spending for defense and non-defense.

The House can pass a bill without Democrats' support but 60 votes are needed in the Senate and the GOP only has a 51-49 edge. The Senate might remove the extra defense money from the House bill.

To appease Democrats, Republicans are considering attaching two years of funding for health centers, according to House Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore.

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In one possibility, a "global deal" includes government spending through Sept. 30, disaster aid and the debt ceiling, and immigration addressed separately.

Avoiding another CR would please Defense Secretary James Mattis, who said he has difficulty funding the military with short-term spending authorization.

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