US Congress Races the Clock to Avert Government Shutdown
WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump and the Senate’s top Democrat leader on Friday failed to reach an agreement to avoid a government shutdown at midnight. As a last attempt, Senate has scheduled a vote for 10 p.m. on the House-passed bill to extend funding for four weeks.
The Senate has only a few hours left to pass a funding patch known as a continuing resolution (CR), to maintain current funding for federal operations and keep the government open through mid-February.
“The reality is that this is not about policy, it’s about politics,” White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short said at an emergency press conference on Friday.
“We’re not familiar with anything in this CR that Democrats are opposing,” he said.
The House of Representatives passed a short-term funding bill late Thursday on a mostly party-line vote of 230-197. The bill also covers six-year funding of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
The stopgap bill was sent to the Senate, where it faced stiff opposition from Democrats. The Senate needs 60 votes to pass the measure.
“The President was very active yesterday in bringing together the House to get 230 votes,” Short said. “He was speaking to Freedom Caucus members. I think that was where we had the best challenge yesterday, and he helped get that bill accomplished,” he said.
Trump on Friday morning canceled his planned weekend trip to Mar-a-Lago to reach a deal with Senate Democrats. He was scheduled to leave on Friday afternoon.
Both parties failed to reach an agreement on a broad budget for the last few months, and the government is currently running on its third stopgap measure. Lawmakers are struggling to reach a deal on immigration and spending levels.
As a precondition for supporting a budget deal, Democrats are pushing for a legislative solution for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients. And DACA is the major sticking point in the negotiations, according to Mick Mulvaney, Director of the Office of Management and Budget.
“There’s no DACA bill to vote on and there’s no emergency in terms of the timing on DACA,” said Mulvaney during the press conference at the White House. “DACA does not expire until March 5th. So there’s absolutely no reason to tie these two things together right now,” he said.
DACA was introduced through an executive order by President Barack Obama in 2012 as a temporary measure that gave recipients renewable, two-year work authorization and deportation immunity. It involved nearly 800,000 individuals—referred to as Dreamers—who were illegally brought into the country as children.
“We are anxious to make sure that our troops and those serving on the frontlines of our country continue to get paid,” said Short.
In preparation for a potential government shutdown, Mulvaney sent out a memo to the heads of federal departments and agencies Friday afternoon. He advised them to review their plans for operations in the absence of appropriations in the event that a shutdown begins at midnight.