The House of Representatives has made a move to avert a government shutdown with only days before Congress’s April 28 spending deadline.
As it stands, Congress has until midnight on Friday to pass a spending bill or the government will run out of money and shut down. But late Wednesday night, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, introduced a continuing resolution to provide one week of stopgap funding, effectively extending the shutdown deadline to May 5, to buy Congress more time to negotiate a spending bill. The CR also includes funding for former miners’ health care and benefits by continuing funding for the Miners Protection Act.
If the CR passes the House and Senate — as it is expected to — it will successfully prevent a government shutdown for at least one more week. Democratic House Whip Steny Hoyer told reporters Thursday morning that he would vote against the short-term funding bill if Republicans tried to ram through their renewed health bill this week.
It looks unlikely that it will get to this point. The Republicans don’t seem to have the votes for health bill yet and will not bring a vote to the floor until they do, Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday. And if they did, it’s possible Republicans could pass at least a CR on their own in the House. The House is expected to take up the CR vote Friday afternoon.
Passing a larger spending bill is a different story. House Republicans maintain that they are planning on coming to an agreement on a larger omnibus spending bill — which just crams together 11 appropriations bills into one spending package — by Friday.
But agreeing to an omnibus will be a more difficult task for Republicans than passing a CR. Even with the GOP in control of the House, Senate, and White House, Republican senators will need 60 votes to end debate on the appropriations bill and get it passed, which means they need to get their party in line plus eight Democrats on their side. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY) said he is under the impression that Republicans need Democratic help in the House as well to pass a spending bill.
The Democrats have some leverage in the spending fight
Many of Trump’s campaign promises are at stake in this fight — and Democrats have made it clear they don’t want to concede on any of them.
If Republicans didn’t need Democrats to pass a bill, they would want to hike up defense spending, grant Trump’s border wall supplemental budget, defund Planned Parenthood (although Speaker Paul Ryan has said that belongs in the health care debate), and make sure subsidies to insurance companies core to Obamacare’s functionality weren’t included.
But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has opposed those moves.
Senate and House Democrats have already warned Republicans that any attempt to pass funding for the border wall or other “poison pills” like defunding Planned Parenthood in the 2017 appropriations bill would be met with unified Democratic resistance — which would result in a shutdown.
Republicans will eventually either have to make peace with a shutdown or make concessions to Democrats. It looks as though they’re leaning toward the latter, which would result in an omnibus bill that’s pretty friendly to Democrats.
There are some areas of possible agreement, like increases in defense funding and a watered-down compromise on border security, possibly to fund more technology — an area that has more bipartisan support. Republicans already seem willing to concede to Democratic demands on bypassing wall funding altogether; Crowley said funding the wall “was no longer an issue” in an interview Wednesday.
The White House keeps taking a harder line, then rolling it back
The White House once seemed more interested in a fight than congressional Republicans. Over recess, the administration took a harder line on the shutdown deadline, saying funding for the wall is a “must,” and Trump tweeted that Obamacare is in “serious trouble.” The president was seemingly hinting at a deal that Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney put on the table: an exchange of $1 for the insurance subsidy payments under Obamacare for every $1 given to the border wall. The offer hasn’t swayed Senate Democrats.
A Democratic aide said Mulvaney told Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) that the White House could stop funding Obamacare’s subsidies as soon as next month, further escalating tensions over the omnibus bill Wednesday. Democrats want to include funding for the subsidies in the funding bill, which Speaker Ryan said he will not stand for. The White House rolled back its threat by Wednesday afternoon.
It’s still up for negotiation whether or not Obamacare funding will be included in the longer-term spending bill.
Nevertheless, it will be near impossible for Republican leadership to sell all its spending concessions to the entirety of its conference — especially once conservatives realize just how much their party has to concede. The irony there is that the more Republican leadership realizes it will lose conservative votes in its own party, the more it will have to rely on Democrats to avoid a shutdown.