House Republicans coalesce behind plan to avert shutdown
House Republicans on Tuesday night appeared to coalesce around a short-term funding bill to avert a government shutdown Friday — even as conservatives threatened to oppose it and a bitter fight continued over the fate of more than 700,000 Dreamers.
Speaker Paul Ryan unveiled a plan at a House GOP Conference meeting to fund the government through Feb. 16, and numerous rank-and-file members quickly endorsed it despite their frustration with another short-term patch. To further sweeten the pot, the Wisconsin Republican’s bill also includes a delay of several Obamacare taxes and a six-year extension of a popular health care program for children.
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That — combined with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) threats to withhold Democratic votes to help pass the measure — appeared to have won over key GOP skeptics.
“It’s a good strategic position because not only does it offer CHIP [funding] for six years … but you also have a medical device tax delay as well as the Cadillac tax delay,” said Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker (R-N.C.), referring to some of the taxes that would be delayed. “I think it puts Democrats in a very difficult position of having to vote against that in the House or in the Senate.”
House GOP leaders will whip the bill Wednesday before a possible Thursday vote. If the funding measure passes the House, senior Republican sources in both chambers expect the measure to clear the Senate.
House GOP leaders, however, still have some work to do: House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) said many of his conservative members oppose the plan, dismissing the tax delays as a “gimmick” that won’t necessarily help leaders find 218 votes for passage.
After the GOP Conference meeting, the House Freedom Caucus met and did not take a position on the stopgap bill. But Meadows expressed skepticism leadership’s plan would pass in its current form with just Republican votes.
“Based on the number of ‘no’ and undecided votes, there is not enough votes for a Republican-only bill,” he said.
Defense hawks, likewise, still aren’t thrilled. Rep. Austin Scott, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, stood up at the GOP Conference meeting to lecture leadership about how temporary continuing resolutions cripple the military.
“In the end, the issue with national security is totally different than any of the other issues hanging out there,” the Georgia Republican said in a brief interview before the meeting. “We need to resolve this issue.”
Democratic and Republican party leaders had hoped to reach a long-term budget agreement by Friday, when the government runs out of money. But Democrats have been loath to strike a deal to raise strict spending caps without a solution for young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as minors.
Those young adults, known as Dreamers, face deportation as early as March unless Congress codifies the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program, which President Donald Trump is rescinding.
The stalemate has led to a series of stopgap funding bills, and this week’s will be the fourth since September.
Typically, appropriators abhor funding the government on a temporary basis, as it does not allow agencies to plan. But even some appropriators backed Ryan’s pitch Tuesday night.
“It was pretty positive, even though some people are saying — and rightfully so — ‘Man, here we go again!’” said Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho). “They’re frustrated that we’re not getting the final deal done, but they understand the position we’re in, too. … This is the best we can do right now. We don’t have a deal on DACA.”
That’s also the feeling of some top defense hawks in the House, who’ve used their votes to pressure leaders before.
“We’re going to have a CR,” said Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), who leads the appropriations subcommittee on defense. “We’re not going to shut down the government.”