Congress clears spending bill, averting shutdown
Congress passed a two-week funding bill Thursday, staving off a government shutdown a day ahead of the deadline. But lawmakers face a turbulent next few weeks as they try to clinch a broader budget deal by the end of the year.
Senators approved the measure on a 81-14 vote, soon after the House passed it 235-193. Despite initial reluctance from conservative House Republicans, GOP leadership was ultimately able to pass it with votes to spare.
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The more interesting action was arguably taking place across Pennsylvania Ave.
President Donald Trump met with the âBig Fourâ congressional leaders â" Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer â" at the White House on Thursday afternoon in a bid to jump-start negotiations over a two-year budget deal.
Per one senior Democratic aide, the vast majority of the talks focused on spending levels, and the two parties did not come to a consensus. Democrats want parity for any defense and non-defense spending boost, while Republicans want to see the Pentagon get the bul k of any spending increase.
âWe had a good meeting. We agreed to keep on talking,â McConnell said after returning from the meeting. Asked if they were any closer to a deal on spending caps, he said, âI wouldnât say that, but it was a good meeting. Everybody wants to get to an outcome.â
âWe had a productive conversation on a wide variety of issues,â Pelosi said in a statement following the meeting. âNothing specific has been agreed to, but discussions continue.â
The group also discussed the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. GOP leaders argued the issue would have to be dealt with separately from funding the government â" something many Democrats will not support.
Earlier in the day, Pelosi told reporters, "We will not leave here without a DACA fix.â
The shutdown dance comes as Republican leaders and the White House are pushing to finish work on a trillion-dollar-plus tax cut plan being hashed out by House and Senate tax writers. Ryan and McConnell are hoping to buy enough time in the budget talks to complete work on the tax bill, all while mollifying their defense hawks and conservative hard-liners in the House Freedom Caucus. And thatâs to say nothing of Democratic demands for a deal to help hundreds of thousands of Dreamers who face possible deportation next year, as well as a host of other controversial policy issues.
Ahead of the meeting, a senior administration official said Trump's main push would be to keep DACA out of the budget deal, increase defense spending without boosting non-defense funding, and get Democrats to agree to allow his hugely controversial border wall project.
That, Democrats say, is a White House pipedream. During a Thursday speech on the floor, Schumer said Trump and Republicans will have to be open to real negotiations in order to reach a budget deal, and added that the GOP would pay politically if there is a shutdown.
"Congressional negotiators are making good headway on a budget deal that would meet our commitments to our military and also urgent priorities here at home," Schumer said on the floor.
"Unfortunately, the progress here in Congress is in stark contrast to the rhetoric coming from the White House. President Trump again suggested yesterday that 'a shutdown could happen.' If a shutdown happens, as the president seemed to be rooting for in a tweet earlier this year, it will fall on his shoulders. His party controls the Senate, the House, and the presidency."
But first, Republicans had to put up the 217 votes to keep the government open Thursday â" not an easy feat for a conference populated with conservatives who rarely vote for any spending bills.
That's why Ryan, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and other GOP leaders spent much of Wednesday huddling with conservative hard-liners unhappy with the leadership plan to avert a shutdown. McCarthy even brought in McConnell to talk to frustrated rank-and-file members grumbling about the strategy at one point.
By Thursday morning, however, House GOP leaders were predicting they'd have the votes to pass the continuing resolution. And they were right.
Rachael Bade, Jennifer Scholtes and Seung Min Kim contributed to this report.Source: Google News