As congressional leaders continue to struggle to strike a spending deal that can pass both chambers, House Republicans said Saturday they are open to a three-week stopgap spending bill that will help bring enough Senate Democrats on board to pass a continuing resolution (CR) and reopen the government.
The House-passed four-week CR — which included a six year funding extension for the Children’s Health Insurance Program and delayed a number of the Obamacare taxes — failed on the Senate floor late Friday evening in a procedural vote. Democrats managed to block the measure from obtaining the 60 votes needed to send the bill to the president’s desk, arguing they would not vote for a spending bill until an immigration deal is reached that includes a legislative fix for 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. Top lawmakers in the upper chamber are weighing a three-week extension, with Democrats pushing for a shorter timeframe to complete negotiations on spending caps and DACA.
Following the failed vote in the upper chamber, GOP Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona — one of the five Republicans who voted against the CR — said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is willing to bring up a bipartisan immigration bill being crafted by GOP Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina and Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin and possibly another immigration bill before Feb. 8 in an attempt to break the impasse.
While House Republicans said they would consider a slightly shorter timeframe on a CR, hesitations remain on the Graham-Durbin proposal.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — who is one of the top four congressional negotiators on DACA — confirmed a three-week CR could likely pass the lower chamber, but noted the Graham-Durbin bill, which has not yet been finalized, faces an uphill battle with Republicans.
“We’ve been in negotiations with [Senate Minority Whip Dick] Durbin for DACA, with the White House, [Senate Majority Whip John] Cornyn, with [House Minority Whip] Steny [Hoyer],” he told reporters following the House GOP’s conference meeting Saturday morning. “By shutting down [the government], they shut down the [DACA] negotiations. And even in the last day, they said it was probably the most successful meeting they’ve had so far — and that’s why I don’t understand why Schumer wanted to shut it down.”
White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short, who has been involved in DACA negotiations, said from what the White House has seen of the Graham-Durbin measure, it doesn’t look like something President Donald Trump could support, citing issues with language on the southern border wall and “chain migration.”
“It’s kind of hard to understand when you’re holding our troops hostage and essentially denying services to law-abiding Americans and denying funding to our border agents how you can negotiate on DACA during that,” Short told reporters Saturday. “I think the administration’s position is that as soon as they reopen the government we will resume conversations on DACA.”
Republicans argue Democrats are holding government funding hostage over immigration despite having until at least March 5 to strike a deal on DACA, telling reporters there are no riders Democrats would normally find objectionable.
“Children’s health insurance funding runs out in real time in the next few days — that’s what HHS has told us. And so it’s not fair to those kids, it’s certainly not fair to the pregnant women to have CHIP funding run out,” House Committee on Energy and Commerce Chairman Gregg Walden told reporters Saturday. “I think Democrats — if freed up — would vote for this, but their leadership has them constrained and they’ve got them in a bad position and it’s time to release them and let them vote and reopen the government and take care of at least CHIP.”
The House Rules committee gathered Saturday morning to extend same-day voting authority through 29th and suspension authority through the 28th.