House GOP Looks to Sweeten Spending Deal for Conservatives

Updated on
  • Republican leaders forming plan for stopgap to avert shutdown
  • Some Democratic votes needed to pass funding measure in Senate

Once Again, Trump Signals Frustration at Nafta

GOP leaders in the House are testing whether rank-and-file Republicans will support a stopgap funding measure to keep the government open that also would delay some Obamacare taxes and provide money for a children’s health insurance program, lawmakers said.

The plan indicates that House Speaker Paul Ryan and his team are trying to push through a plan to finance government operations through Feb. 16 without having to count on support from Democrats in the chamber.

On Tuesday night, some Republican representatives expressed cautious optimism about the plan’s chances of success. “I think this bill will get the support of a large number of Republicans and some Democrats," said Representative Hal Rogers of Kentucky.

“You are never out of the woods when Congress is in session but I’m much less concerned."

Some members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, including Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama, said they were ready to vote for the stopgap funding. Representative Mark Walker of North Carolina, leader of the conservative Republican Study Committee, said he also was leaning toward supporting it.

House leaders are checking with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to gauge what provision could survive in that chamber, where the Republicans have a narrower majority.

GOP leaders don’t expect to have enough time to get a deal on a broader fiscal plan that would raise caps on defense and domestic spending. That means the clock would start ticking again for them to deliver topline funding levels needed to write an omnibus spending bill for the rest of the fiscal year.

Republicans’ slim 51-49 Senate majority means they need at least nine Democratic votes to pass a stopgap funding measure. The GOP is counting on support from some Democrats, including from among the 10 who are up for election in November in states won by Trump.

Democratic Votes

One of those, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, already declared his support for a spending bill that doesn’t include added provisions, including immigration. Senators have not yet weighed in on the House’s proposal, since it was presented to House members after Tuesday night’s votes.

Another Democratic senator from a Trump-friendly state, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, said he is “still looking at the process” for the continuing resolution that will need to pass both chambers this week.

The spending issue has become entangled in an increasingly bitter debate over immigration policy. Democrats have said they see Friday as the deadline to proceed with an immigration deal and the other policy measures which they have described as one package of demands. Republican leaders insist that the immigration debate be handled entirely outside of the spending package, and that more time may be needed to resolve both matters.

Democrats as well as some Republicans are seeking to put into law protections for some of the young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children. They had been allowed to stay in the U.S. under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals that President Donald Trump said would end March 5.

Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat, said Tuesday that he’ll introduce the bipartisan immigration compromise as soon as Wednesday and that McConnell should allow the vote before the Friday spending vote.

"Let’s bring this matter to a vote before we reach deadline on Friday," Durbin said.

‘No Imminent Deadline’

But McConnell said he sees little reason to act anytime soon on immigration, after a federal judge issued an order against Trump’s move to end DACA.

“With no imminent deadline on immigration and with bipartisan talks well under way, there’s no reason why Congress should hold government funding hostage over the issue of illegal immigration,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.

A furor over the president’s reported remarks about why the U.S. accepts immigrants from “shithole countries” like Haiti, El Salvador and African nations rather than places like Norway, has hardened positions on both sides.

The next big issue for lawmakers to tackle is a two-year deal to raise the budget caps to avoid another spending standoff next year. Lawmakers from both parties agree that defense spending should be raised above the $549 billion cap created by a 2011 law and that domestic spending can be raised above the $516 billion limit. But there is still disagreement over how much to raise each cap, how to pay for the increases, and which programs should benefit.

— With assistance by John Fitzpatrick, and Laura Litvan

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