Congress on track to avert shutdown
WASHINGTON >> Despite incendiary words from President Donald Trump, Congress seemed on its way Wednesday to approving legislation that would avert a partial government shutdown over the weekend as all sides seemed ready to avert a confrontation — for now.
Increasingly confident House leaders planned a vote today on a bill that would keep federal agencies functioning through Dec. 22, and Senate approval was expected to follow. Even the head of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, whose members have been threatening to oppose the measure, predicted passage.
The moderated tone reflected a sense within both parties that though major differences remain over spending, immigration, health care and other issues, this was no time for a headline-grabbing government closure.
Republicans want the public focus to be on the party’s prized $1.5 trillion tax bill, which they hope to enact by Christmas. They also have no interest in a shutdown that would raise questions about their ability to govern.
While many Democrats seemed likely to oppose the measure, enough were expected to support it in the Senate to allow its passage there. They know they’d still have leverage on subsequent bills needed to keep the government running.
Congressional leaders of both parties planned to meet Trump at the White House today to bargain over long-term spending limits and other issues that have become entangled with lawmakers’ year-end work.
But Trump unexpectedly tossed a hand grenade into the mix when he told reporters that a shutdown “could happen” and blamed Democrats. He said they want “illegal immigrants pouring into our country, bringing with them crime, tremendous amounts of crime.”
His comments drew a tweet from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who called Trump “the only person talking about a government shutdown.”
The two-week bill is aimed at giving negotiators more time to settle differences. The measure also makes money available to several states that are running out of funds for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, a widely popular program that provides medical care to more than 8 million children.