Congress Inches Closer To Government Shutdown

REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Juliegrace Brufke Capitol Hill Reporter
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With temporary government funding set to expire Friday, Congress is inching closer to a government shutdown as both sides continue to fight over immigration and spending caps.

While Republican leadership is expected to bring a continuing resolution — which includes a six-year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and delays the Obamacare Cadillac tax and medical device tax — that runs through Feb. 16 to the floor Thursday evening, it’s unclear whether the measure has the votes to pass the Senate.

Parties have already begun pointing fingers, with Democrats arguing an immigration deal providing a legislative fix to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program — the Obama-era initiative that extended temporary legal status to foreign nationals who illegally entered the country as minors — needs to be reached before they agree to support the must-pass spending bill.

Top Republicans have accused Democrats of playing politics and putting the country’s top priorities at risk, including funding the military and children’s health care.

“Now just let me be clear: I want a DACA fix, too. I’m disappointed that we don’t have one. We have until March. There’s no good reason to punish children today by keeping Congress from passing the CHIP authorization,” House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers told reporters Wednesday. “By voting against this continuing resolution, not only are they voting to shut down the government, they’re voting to deny children access to critical health care when they need it.”

Democrats allege Republicans will be responsible if the government shuts down, arguing they have been given ample time to come to a consensus on key issues and they don’t want to continue to “kick the can down the road.”

“Well, let me say it is a shame that the Republicans have given us a take it or continuing resolution,” Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin told reporters. “There was no negotiation, no political activity, and we’re doing our best to pr a lot of programs protect.”

In addition to a lack of Democratic support, members of the House Freedom Caucus have also expressed hesitations about the measure. HFC Chairman Mark Meadows told reporters Wednesday the powerful group of conservatives is looking for a commitment on an immigration bill and tighter caps on non-defense spending,

“My understanding is they are going to put it on the floor tomorrow and dare the members of their own party to vote against it,” he told reporters.

According to Meadows, they are “making good progress,” but asserted leadership is currently short in the votes to pass the measure without the Freedom Caucus’ support.

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