Democratic and Republican congressional leaders hustled Wednesday to unite members to pass a temporary spending bill and avoid a government shutdown before the weekend — with immigration and now military spending emerging as the main sticking points.
Democrats’ insistence that any bill include immigration reform, particularly protections for young illegal immigrants, has been the major issue since Congress returned after the holiday break.
However, leaders of the House Freedom Caucus, the chamber’s most conservative wing, said late Tuesday that its members and other House Republicans want additional money for the military included in any short-term bill to keep federal agencies open after Friday.
“There is not support for the current leadership plan as proposed.”
“There is not support for the current leadership plan as proposed,” said Freedom Caucus leader Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C. “I can tell you there was overwhelming support to do the plan most of the GOP conference had supported six weeks ago. And that’s the plan to fund the military and keep non-defense discretionary spending flat.”
Meadows also said the group came to a “general consensus on the issue,” though it didn’t have enough members present to vote on an official position.
The Freedom Caucus has roughly 35 members, and GOP House leadership can lose only 23 party votes before needing help from Democrats to pass the spending bill. While leadership could likely get the Democratic votes, they could no longer argue that Democrats, not Republicans, refused to compromise to avoid a politically unpopular shutdown.
The GOP is focused on keeping the government open because time has essentially expired on the possibility of a bipartisan deal by week’s end on protecting young immigrants, now that President Trump is ending their protection from deportation under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
Those talks were soured by Trump’s reportedly incendiary remarks about Haiti and countries in Africa in a closed-door meeting last week.
Democratic leaders said they would not promise to vote to keep the government open past Friday without a plan to preserve the DACA program.
“We don’t want to shut down the government. … We want to keep the government open,” Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters. “But we’re not going to be held hostage to do things that we think are going to be contrary to the best interests of the American people.”
In addition, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., appears to have challenges unifying his members to vote in support of a short-term spending bill, while keeping the blame off Senate Democrats for a possible shutdown, according to The Hill.
Senate Democrat such as Cory Booker, of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand, of New York, and Kamala Harris, of California — among the chamber’s most liberal members and each with possible 2020 presidential aspirations — voted against an earlier stopgap spending bill because it didn’t address DACA. And they could do so again this week.
Trump has pre-emptively put the blame for a shutdown on Democrats.
On Sunday, he argued again that Democrats and their demands — not him or fellow Republicans in Congress — have throttled negotiations over DACA. And he’s made clear that any immigration reform deal must include a U.S.-Mexico border wall and an end to the United States’ so-called “chain migration and diversity-lottery immigration programs.
“DACA is probably dead because the Democrats don’t really want it, they just want to talk and take desperately needed money away from our Military,” Trump tweeted.
The spending plan that House Republican leaders are now pitching to win over wary conservatives includes a two-year delay on implementation of unpopular taxes on medical devices and generous employer-subsidized health care plans.
The taxes, also unpopular with many Democrats, are part of ObamaCare.
The temporary funding bill would also include a long-delayed, six-year renewal of a popular health insurance program for children of low-income families. It would fund the government through Feb. 16.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., unveiled the plan at a Tuesday evening GOP meeting. Lawmakers and aides initially said it was received well, raising hopes that a potential shutdown would be sidestepped with relative ease.
Fox News’ Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.