House Passes Stopgap Budget Bill; Senate Resistance Remains as Shutdown Looms

By FeaturesDow Jones Newswires

The House narrowly passed a one-month spending bill Thursday, but it faced enough opposition to be derailed in the Senate, leaving lawmakers without a clear path for avoiding a partial government shutdown this weekend.

In a 230-197 vote, the House approved a short-term spending bill that would keep the government funded through Feb. 16. It also reauthorizes the Children's Health Insurance Program for six years and delays three Affordable Care Act taxes.

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But GOP leaders' victory could prove short-lived, since the stopgap bill currently doesn't have enough support to clear the Senate, just one day before the government's funding expires at 12:01 a.m. EST Saturday.

The Senate was expected to begin considering the bill as soon as Thursday night. The first vote would be on a motion to proceed that would need just 50 votes to pass. Democrats are likely to support the first motion to buy more time to reach a better deal, a congressional aide said.

Conservative House Republicans had questioned all week whether GOP leaders had sufficient support for the one-month bill, which was unpopular on both sides of the aisle. But enough members of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of roughly three dozen conservatives, and other reluctant Republicans ultimately decided a short-term bill was preferable to a government shutdown.

A one-month spending bill "is not good for the military. But what's worse for the military is a government shutdown," House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) told reporters Thursday.

Rep. Mark Meadows (R., N.C.), chairman of the Freedom Caucus, said Thursday evening he had reached a deal with Mr. Ryan to later vote on "provisions that have to do with our military readiness" that Mr. Meadows said would enable many in his group to support the one-month bill.

As part of the deal with the Freedom Caucus, House GOP leaders pledged to hold a vote on a full-year defense bill before the State of the Union on Jan. 30, a House GOP aide said.

GOP leaders also agreed to try to build support for a conservative immigration bill written by four House Republicans but didn't commit to a floor vote, another House GOP aide said.

Democrats, who forced Republican leaders to come up with enough votes on their own, were opposed to the bill because they said it left many other issues unresolved. They have been seeking to use their leverage in the spending negotiations to reach a deal on the fate of Dreamers, young illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. by their parents.

President Donald Trump in September ended an Obama-era program shielding the Dreamers from deportation. He gave Congress until March to negotiate a replacement to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. Democrats, knowing their votes are needed for spending bills in the Senate, have been pushing to reach an broader immigration agreement that protects the Dreamers.

In the Senate, spending bills need at least 60 votes to clear procedural hurdles, giving Democrats the power to derail the bill. Without an immigration deal, most Senate Democrats said they were prepared to oppose the spending measure.

"It's a joke. You're asking if I would vote for a joke that leaves out all the things we need?" said Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee. "The question answers itself."

While the House voted Thursday, negotiations continued over immigration with the Trump administration pushing for policy changes that limit the rights of asylum seekers and unaccompanied children who cross the U.S. border, as well as for more money for the president's promised border wall.

Democrats oppose all these elements, but with the clock ticking toward a possible government shutdown, people in both parties said negotiations Thursday had a more positive tone than in recent days.

(More to come)

Write to Natalie Andrews at Natalie.Andrews@wsj.com, Kristina Peterson at kristina.peterson@wsj.com and Siobhan Hughes at siobhan.hughes@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 18, 2018 19:55 ET (00:55 GMT)

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