House and Senate leadership have until midnight Friday to whip congressmen behind a must-pass spending bill, and they appear to be looking to give Democrats major concessions in order to avert another government shutdown.
The federal government runs out of money Saturday morning at 12:01 a.m. If lawmakers fail to come to an agreement in the next five days, all “non-essential” government employees and active U.S. military personnel will be working without pay (including troops currently deployed). Funding for agencies like federal museums or national parks will also be cut off.
Leadership is expected to roll out a plan Monday that would fund the government at the jacked up spending levels Congress agreed to in early February.
Congressmen are notorious for using must-pass legislation to add on last-minute features they favor or use the hard deadline to force leadership’s hands on a policy issue. The first three months of 2018 have provided no shortage of heated policy debates between Democrats and Republicans. Leadership was still haggling over those issues, like immigration, Obamacare, taxes and others, heading into Monday’s unveiling, and it looks like they might offer Democrats nearly everything they want.
Obamacare Subsidies And A Re-insurance Slush Fund
GOP Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, along with Democratic Washington Sen. Patty Murray, is using the deadline to sway leadership to include a proposal that would fund politically-contentious Obamacare subsidies through 2019. The proposal would provide $10 billion a year for three years for these subsidies.
Additionally, the proposal would give states greater Obamacare waiver flexibility and would broaden consumer eligibility for “copper” plans.
Republicans in Congress are pushing leadership to ensure that Hyde Amendment protections be applied to any subsidies or other measures aimed at stabilizing the Obamacare marketplace. Hyde protections are meant to ensure that no federal money goes towards the funding of abortions.
Democrats argue that stopping the subsidies on the basis of Hyde protections essentially means those protections are now extended to the entire insurance marketplace.
The debate could derail Alexander-Murray entirely.
Another proposal floating around the Senate is one that would subsidize health insurance providers for covering high-cost beneficiaries.
Funding Sanctuary Cities
The Daily Caller News Foundation exclusively reported Friday a potential plan on the part of Republican leadership to fund sanctuary cities in the spending bill.
Republican leadership is going to fund sanctuary cities in the must-pass spending bill next week, giving Democrats a huge victory while simultaneously undercutting conservatives who put them in power, a senior GOP aide told TheDCNF.
“House and Senate leadership has rolled over and played dead on border security. When it comes to a border wall, they say it is not our problem. When it comes to funding sanctuary cities, they say it is not our problem. What they are essentially saying is we are going to pass bills with more Democrats than Republicans,” the aide told TheDCNF. “This is a sign to administration that leadership doesn’t care what the White House wants. Even though GOP members ran on these issues. Conservatives mean it. The administration means it.”
Conservatives in Congress, along with administration officials, are currently lobbying leadership to stop funding sanctuary cities. The argument is if Congress stops appropriating the money for these federal grants in the spending bill, the court’s claim is undercut and the administration and Republicans could claim a victory.
The government shelled out roughly $27 billion in federal grants in 2016 alone, according to American Transparency.
The president himself called on Congress on March 10 to stop giving money to cities outright disobeying federal immigration laws.
“I’m calling on Congress to stop funding sanctuary cities so we can save American lives. The funding bill should not give precious and massive tax payer grants to cities aiding and abetting criminals,” Trump said at the rally for failed Republican congressional candidate Rick Saccone. “It’s what they do.”
Internet Sales Tax
A large faction of House Republicans, along with a few of their Senate colleagues, are looking to attach a tax on internet sales to the spending bill. One bill has 50 co-sponsors in the House and another has 27 co-sponsors in the Senate.
Arguments for the internet sales tax include raising revenue and ensuring stores without a “physical” location are playing in a fair environment. Conservatives, like Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, argue that taxing internet sales slaps small businesses with more regulations and hinders growth that the internet made possible in the first place.
Conservative think-tanks peg the cost of levying an internet sales tax on the consumer between $40 and $110 billion. In other words, consumers would end up paying more for the goods they purchase on-line.
The federal government shut down twice already in 2017. Democrats shut the federal government down in January in order to secure legal protections for 800,000 illegal immigrants. That did not happen and the government reopened after a brief, weekend-long shutdown.
GOP Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky shut the government down again in February, filibustering the two-year budget agreement that raised federal spending some $300 billion dollars. The government shut down only for a few hours before reopening.
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