Congress averts shut­down, sends Trump stop­gap spend­ing bill

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - NEWS - By An­drew Tay­lor and Alan Fram

WASHINGTON » Congress on Thurs­day passed a stop­gap spend­ing bill to pre­vent a gov­ern­ment shut­down this week­end and buy time for chal­leng­ing talks on a wide range of un­fin­ished business on Capi­tol Hill. The shut­down re­prieve came as all sides is­sued op­ti­mistic takes on an af­ter­noon White House meet­ing be­tween top con­gres­sional lead­ers and Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

The mea­sure passed the House 235-193, mostly along party lines, and breezed through the Se­nate on a sweep­ing 81-14 tally barely an hour later. It would keep the gov­ern­ment run­ning through Dec. 22, when an­other, and more dif­fi­cult, shut­down prob­lem awaits.

The bill now heads to Trump for his sig­na­ture.

Top­ics at the White House ses­sion in­cluded re­lief from a bud­get freeze on the Pen­tagon and do­mes­tic agen­cies, ex­tend­ing a key chil­dren’s health pro­gram and aid to hur­ri­cane-slammed Puerto Rico, Texas and Florida. The trick­i­est topic, and a top pri­or­ity for Democrats, in­volves pro­tec­tions for im­mi­grants brought to the coun­try il­le­gally as chil­dren.

These “Dreamer” im­mi­grants are viewed sym­pa­thet­i­cally by the pub­lic and most law­mak­ers but face de­por­ta­tion in a few months be­cause Trump re­versed ad­min­is­tra­tive pro­tec­tions pro­vided to them by former Pres­i­dent Barack Obama.

In back-to-back state­ments, both Demo­cratic and GOP lead­ers de­clared the meet­ing “pro­duc­tive.” The White House called it “con­struc­tive.” Pri­vately, con­gres­sional aides said lit­tle progress had been made.

“We had a pro­duc­tive con­ver­sa­tion on a wide va­ri­ety of is­sues. Noth­ing spe­cific has been agreed to, but dis­cus­sions con­tinue,” said Capi­tol Hill’s top Democrats, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York and Rep. Nancy Pelosi of Cal­i­for­nia, tick­ing off a ros­ter of Demo­cratic pri­or­i­ties, in­clud­ing do­mes­tic spend­ing in­creases, fund­ing for veter­ans and money to bat­tle opi­oid abuse, im­mi­gra­tion and health care.

GOP lead­ers said they agreed with the need to ad­dress im­mi­gra­tion, in­clud­ing the al­most 1 mil­lion im­mi­grants given pro­tec­tions by Obama, many of whom have only known Amer­ica as their home.

Spokes­men for House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, R-Ky., said GOP lead­ers “stressed the need to ad­dress bor­der se­cu­rity, in­te­rior en­force­ment and other parts of our bro­ken im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem,” adding that the tricky im­mi­gra­tion is­sue “should be a sep­a­rate process and not used to hold hostage fund­ing for our men and women in uni­form.”

Ne­go­ti­a­tions are sure to be chal­leng­ing. Pelosi staked out a hard line Thurs­day and in­sisted that any year-end deal solve the im­mi­gra­tion is­sue.

Pelosi told re­porters be­fore the meet­ing that “we will not leave here” with­out help­ing the “Dream­ers.” Her stance was note­wor­thy be­cause GOP lead­ers are likely to re­quire Demo­cratic votes for the pre-Christ­mas spend­ing bill.

The White House said “ne­go­ti­a­tions on im­mi­gra­tion should be held sep­a­rately on a dif­fer­ent track” and not slow down fund­ing in­creases for the Pen­tagon.

Pelosi re­turned from the White House to op­pose Thurs­day’s stop­gap bill. Four­teen Democrats sup­ported the mea­sure, how­ever, while 18 Repub­li­cans op­posed it.

Among Repub­li­cans, the con­ser­va­tive House Free­dom Cau­cus had re­sisted the pend­ing stop­gap mea­sure ear­lier in the week, fear­ing it would lead to a bad deal for con­ser­va­tives down the road. But on Thurs­day, the group’s chair­man, Rep. Mark Mead­ows, R-N.C., said the group will likely give lead­ers what­ever sup­port they need to pass the leg­is­la­tion.

Mead­ows said they’d help it pass to avoid dis­trac­tions from the GOP drive to push their trea­sured $1.5 tril­lion tax bill through Congress this month. That mea­sure, which mostly ben­e­fits busi­nesses and up­per-in­come peo­ple, is Trump’s and the GOP’s top re­main­ing pri­or­ity and would be their first ma­jor leg­isla­tive tri­umph of the year.

But hours be­fore Trump was to bar­gain with con­gres­sional lead­ers at the White House over longer-term spend­ing de­ci­sions, Mead­ows said the con­ser­va­tives would op­pose any agree­ment they feel al­lows ex­ces­sive fed­eral spend­ing.

“I want to avoid a head­line that says Pres­i­dent Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion just passes the high­est spend­ing lev­els in U.S. his­tory,” Mead­ows told re­porters. “There will be zero sup­port on num­bers that are too high, re­gard­less of any­body’s po­si­tion on that.”

He also said Ryan promised he’d fight in com­ing weeks to pass a full-year bud­get for the mil­i­tary and leave fights with Democrats over do­mes­tic spend­ing for later. It is un­clear how that strat­egy would work, since Repub­li­cans con­trol the Se­nate 52-48 and will need at least eight Demo­cratic votes to pass any spend­ing leg­is­la­tion.

The prospects for suc­cess­ful White House talks were buf­feted Wed­nes­day when the im­pul­sive Trump blurted to re­porters that a shut­down “could hap­pen.” He blamed Democrats, say­ing they want “il­le­gal im­mi­grants pour­ing into our coun­try, bring­ing with them crime, tremen­dous amounts of crime.”

Last week, an un­ex­pected at­tack by Trump on Schumer and Pelosi prompted the two to skip a bar­gain­ing ses­sion.


Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump ac­com­pa­nied by Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence, meets with con­gres­sional lead­ers in­clud­ing House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., left, House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell of Ky., Se­nate...

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