House Republicans approve stopgap government funding, averting shutdown threat for now

Lisa Mascaro, Tribune Washington Bureau on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON -- House Republicans approved legislation Thursday to keep the government running -- something they've rarely been able to do on their own -- ensuring a week-end shutdown will likely be averted.

The Senate was expected to follow suit later Thursday.

Most House Democrats refused to support the stopgap measure, which extends government operations through Dec. 22. In a 235-193 vote, only 12 Democrats voted yes.

That put pressure on House Speaker Paul D. Ryan to assemble the votes from Republicans on his own.

Typically House GOP leaders, even when the hold the majority, have been unable to pass spending measures without significant support from Democrats. They face problems because Republican deficit hawks often refuse to vote for any legislation adds to debt without slashing spending elsewhere and defense hawks demand more money for the military.

Earlier Thursday, President Donald Trump invited Ryan, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the Senate leaders to the White House to begin outlining the contours of a broader deal to fund the government through fiscal 2018.

"We hope that we're going to make some great progress for our country," Trump said at the start of the meeting in the Oval Office.

But Congress faces a time crunch to reach agreement amid broad divisions. Thursday's vote essentially punts the potential crisis to right before the Christmas weekend.

Republicans, who have the majority in Congress, are expected to offer another stopgap measure at that time that would keep the government running into January. Leaders hope by that time they will have a broader deal for the remainder of fiscal 2018.

"We hope we can come to an agreement," Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said at the White House. "Funding the government is extremely important. Helping our soldiers is very important and helping average citizens is very important. So we're here in the spirit of let's get it done."

To pass a government funding bill on their own, Ryan reached a deal with various factions earlier the week to secure the GOP votes.

Under the agreement, the next package, on Dec. 22, would increase military money through the end of the fiscal year in September as well as an extension of an expiring surveillance program.

To woo Democrats, it would also include money for the children's health care program and emergency disaster funds for hurricane and wildfire recovery.

That's not likely to be enough to win over Democratic votes. Democrats also want a deal to help young immigrant "Dreamers" avoid the risk of deportation as Trump ends the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that allows them to stay and work in the U.S.


And by January, some GOP lawmakers who met with Ryan will now expect to see big spending reductions -- likely in welfare-related programs -- before passing the final package.

"The defense hawks and the fiscal hawks have come together," said Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., who helped broker the deal as the head of the conservative Republican Study Committee.

The outcome, though, remains highly in doubt, in part because Republicans cannot yet guarantee they have the votes, and Democrats have not signed off on that deal. Pelosi was withholding the Democratic votes Thursday to extract priorities in the broader talks at the White House.

"Democrats are not willing to shut the government down," Pelosi said.

Even though some Democratic -- and an increasing number of Republican lawmakers -- have said they will block funding bills unless there is relief for immigrants, Pelosi insisted Thursday they wanted to reach a solution.

"We will not leave here without a DACA fix," Pelosi said.

Pelosi said that if the temporary measure does not include any of the priorities they are negotiating for, Republicans will have to pass the bill on their own.

"They either have the votes or they don't," she said. "We have been outspoken about what our priorities are."

The White House meeting came after Pelosi and Schumer backed out of a session last week when Trump tweeted that he saw no deal to be reached with Democrats.

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