Congress pushes up against March 23 funding deadline

- Maret 14, 2018

Congress is pushing up against a March 23 deadline to fund the federal government, as the House is unlikely to take up a massive spending bill until next week.

Multiple House lawmakers and aides say a $1 trillion-plus omnibus funding bill that was supposed to be on the House floor by Friday won't be voted on until next week. GOP sources don't expect the spending package to even be unveiled until the weekend or early next week.

With government funding running out at the end of next week, leadership sources on both sides of the aisle warn the spending fight may run beyond that deadline, especially if there is a holdup in the Senate. But these sources don't believe there will be a shutdown or a need for another stopgap bill, at least at this time. The package is being assembled after a bipartisan deal was reached last month to end a short government shutdown.

Democrats complain that a large number of policy issues remain outstanding in the omnibus and that Republicans refuse to compromise.

The areas of contention include: $900 million in funding for the Gateway project in New York City, which is being insisted on by the New York and New Jersey delegations but has drawn a private veto threat from President Donald Trump; deportation relief for young undocumented immigrants and Trump's request for a border wall between the United States and Mexico; a prohibition on U.S. funding for international groups that provide abortion services and funding for Planned Parenthood; Obamacare stabilization funds; and a tax provision that would allow churches and nonprofits to participate in political campaigns.

While Speaker Paul Ryan told GOP members in a closed-door meeting Wednesday that he still hopes to vote on the spending bill by week’s end, multiple sources said it was unlikely to happen.

Lawmakers involved with the funding negotiations, in fact, voiced doubt that they could quickly resolve dozens of disputes.

“[Ryan] said he hoped to file tonight. So we’ll see. I mean there’s a lot of negotiation going on. It’s been good progress, I think, in recent days, but still a number of outstanding issues,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who oversees the health and education spending panel. “It’s going to be close.”

One of the biggest sticking point involves immigration — both funding for the border wall and other issues like deportation forces and detention beds — lawmakers and aides say. The White House is now floating a new deal on Dreamers. Other lawmakers point to the Gateway tunnel project in New York City, as well as funding for Planned Parenthood.

“I think that the goal is to release it this week, it’s just whether those last few issues can be ironed out,” said Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), who leads the agriculture spending subcommittee.

Democrats say they’re also still fighting anti-environment and financial deregulation riders — issues that were raised in a Tuesday night meeting of Democratic appropriators.

“A lot of people are feeling pretty good about a majority of their bills, [but] pretty much everybody has a few items that they haven't closed out,” a House Democratic aide close to the negotiations said, adding that multiple subcommittees have “a long way” to go.

Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) told reporters Wednesday that talks had been going “very well actually” and that the committee is close to finishing up “quite a few” of the 12 individual spending bills.

When asked about a possible vote this week, he said: “I don’t know, that remains to be seen.”


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