Congress Facing Deadline to Avoid Shutdown

Washington Report

(December 19, 2017) The House is expected to pass a defense-spending bill this week, but few, if anyone, believes the Senate will go along with it. Republicans plan to fund the Pentagon, but not nondefense programs in a continuing resolution designed to keep the government open into mid-January. Republicans also want to add $81 billion to fund disaster recovery in Florida, Puerto Rico, Texas and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

But Democrats oppose separating defense and nondefense spending bills in this fashion and hold enough seats in the Senate to deny the GOP plan. They could force both chambers to consider a so-called clean continuing resolution. The government is now operating under a CR that runs out Friday.

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., told The Hill, “If the Senate sends back a clean CR, you’d lose some Republican votes. You presumably would get some Democratic votes. But you’re not going to be able to make that call until we go through the motions.”

That is only one item on the agenda for lawmakers this week. The House is expected to approve the tax-reform package Tuesday and send it to the Senate. It could be the Christmas gift the White House has been seeking—a major legislative victory in President Donald Trump’s first year.

Tax reform seems a foregone conclusion, so the focus is largely on avoiding the shutdown that would mar the legislative triumph and cause great uncertainty for federal workers, programs and agencies, including the military.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., wonders why the House Republicans are even considering a CR linked to a defense-spending plan.

“At this late hour it’s . . . an unfortunate waste of precious time,” he said, according to Military Times. “House Republicans should have known not to waste everyone’s time with a partisan spending bill that could never pass the Senate.”