The House passed a continuing resolution Tuesday that would keep the government running through March 23, provide a full year of defense funding and two years of funding for community health centers.
The measure, which is Congress’ fifth stop-gap spending bill since September, is expected to be changed in the Senate. Democrats, who are also looking for an immigration agreement that provides protections for Dreamers before they agree on a deal on spending caps, are advocating for the $695 billion in defense spending to be stripped from the CR, which would then be sent back to the House if it makes it through the Senate.
Republican aides confirmed the Senate is close to reaching a deal on spending caps, which could be voted on as soon as Tuesday evening.
McConnell encouraged members across the aisle to support the defense appropriations, arguing the uncertainty in funding is bad for the troop.
“I’m pleased that we are making real headway in our negotiations over spending caps and other important issues. But there’s no reason why our warfighters need to continue to face uncertainty until all these other issues are resolved,” he said in a floor speech Tuesday. “Last week, a bipartisan majority in the House passed a bill that would fund our national defense through fiscal year 2018. Democrats and Republicans came together, voting to secure adequate, predictable, annual funding for our armed forces while we continue our productive negotiations on other subjects.”
A number of top House Democrats said they are “disappointed” their Senate colleagues are considering agreeing to caps, feeling they lose leverage in their immigration negotiations.
“I don’t know whether the caps deal is a done deal or not,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer told The Daily Caller. “I haven’t seen what the deal is.”
Hoyer said he needs to see what the Senate sends over before he can determine whether it’s something he can encourage his conference to support.
Congress has until midnight on Thursday to pass a measure to avert a second government shutdown this year.
The government shut down for the first time since 2013 in January after Democrats blocked the passage of a short-term funding measure, arguing they couldn’t support any spending bill without an agreement to provide 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 — leaving GOP leadership short of the 60 votes needed to send the measure to the president’s desk.
On the third day of the shutdown, Democrats agreed to support the spending bill in exchange for assurances from McConnell that the Senate would debate a bill to provide legal status to DACA recipients.
Complicating matters, House Democrats are scheduled to attend their annual retreat Wednesday in Cambridge, Maryland, Wednesday through Friday. Democratic leadership in the lower chamber has been alerted members may need to return from the event early to vote on a CR Thursday.