George H.W. Bush’s death eases path for two-week stopgap funding bill
Congressional leaders announced plans Monday to pass a two-week stopgap funding bill to keep the government open beyond Friday’s deadline but teeing up a pre-Christmas shutdown showdown over border security money.
The death of former President George H.W. Bush greased the path for the stopgap bill, with neither side wanting to taint the week’s commemorations with a bare-knuckles political brawl.
But the deal does nothing to settle the big issues, which would need a solution by Dec. 21, which is when the new money would run out.
The bill must pass the House and Senate, but leaders don’t expect that to be a serious hurdle.
They also are hoping the new pre-Christmas deadline will prod all sides to strike the deals needed to finish the spending bills and shut down for the year.
House GOP leaders canceled votes for the remainder of the week, and the Senate isn’t scheduled to hold votes until Wednesday afternoon.
That means the funding legislation would have to be fast-tracked through both chambers later in the week.
Congress has already passed and President Trump has signed five of the 12 annual funding bills for fiscal 2019. That means regardless of what happens, departments such as the Pentagon, Health and Human Services, and Veterans Affairs are fully funded through September 2019.
But funding for other departments and agencies, which include the IRS, NASA and the Department of Homeland Security, would lapse if Congress doesn’t act.
Federal employees deemed “essential,” such as Border Patrol agents, still would report to work, though they could face delays being paid. Others could be furloughed.
Lawmakers say they’re close to finalizing six of the remaining seven bills.
The trouble spot is homeland security, where Mr. Trump has demanded the bill include $5 billion for his U.S.-Mexico border wall. The House version of the bill includes that money, but the Senate bill includes $1.6 billion.
Conservative Republicans say that with the Democrats taking over the House in January, now could be their last chance to secure border wall money for Mr. Trump.
Democrats say Mr. Trump should accept the $1.6 billion Senate offer.
Rep. Steny Hoyer, who is in line to become House majority leader next year, said Monday it’s a “shame” that there’s even talk of potentially shutting down the government.
“The overwhelming number of members of Congress all of the leadership, Republican and Democratic leadership have said shutting down the government is not something they want to do,” Mr. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, said on MSNBC.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Charles E. Schumer were supposed to meet with Mr. Trump at the White House on Tuesday, but they asked for the meeting to be delayed in light of Mr. Bush’s funeral events, according to a Democratic aide.
Any final deal needs to have at least some Democratic support to get through the nearly evenly divided Senate, putting negotiations in something of a holding pattern until Democratic leaders and Mr. Trump can feel each other out face-to-face.
But Mr. Trump has signaled that he is eager to push off the fight until after this week.
“If they come which they have to talk about an extension because of President Bush’s passing, I would absolutely consider it and probably give it,” the president told reporters aboard Air Force One over the weekend.