WASHINGTON – An extension of temporary appropriations for nine Cabinet departments and dozens of smaller agencies through Dec. 21 is on its way to the president’s desk after the House and Senate passed the measure Thursday.
The legislation would extend current funding levels for 2 weeks and buy time to reach final agreement on outstanding spending issues, including President Donald Trump’s $5 billion southern border wall funding request. It also extends a number of expiring authorizations including Violence Against Women Act programs, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and the National Flood Insurance Program for the duration of the stopgap measure.
After the House passed the measure by unanimous consent on Thursday, the Senate quickly took it up and passed it on a voice vote. That gives Trump more than 24 hours to sign the legislation before the current stopgap providing funding for those sections of government expires on Friday at midnight. Without the new stopgap in place, a partial shutdown of operations at those agencies would begin at 12:01 a.m.
Negotiations over the seven remaining fiscal 2019 spending bills – Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science, Financial Services, Homeland Security, Interior-Environment, State-Foreign Operations and Transportation-HUD – were mostly on hold this week as lawmakers mourned the death of former President George H.W. Bush.
Talks are expected to heat back up next week when Senate Democratic leader Charles E. Schumer, D-New York, and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, head to the White House to meet with Trump. While the meeting has not been finalized, the trio was expected to reschedule after postponing a meeting originally planned for earlier this week.
The Democratic leaders, however, aren’t showing a lot of wiggle room, at least in their public statements.
Schumer said on the floor Thursday that Democrats have two proposals to keep the government fully funded beyond Dec. 21.
The first is that Trump accept a final Homeland Security spending bill that includes the $1.6 billion in the Senate’s version of the measure that would provide “for an additional 65 miles of “pedestrian fencing” in the Rio Grande Valley.
The second is a package that includes six of the seven remaining spending bills and a continuing resolution for the Department of Homeland Security that would last through the end of fiscal 2019.
If Trump insists on the $5 billion included in the House’s Homeland Security appropriations bill, Schumer said that would likely lead to a funding lapse at the nine departments and the various agencies that don’t yet have full-year spending bills.
“If President Trump wants to throw a temper tantrum and shut down the government over Christmas over the wall, that’s his decision. But there are two sensible options on the table to avoid one,” Schumer said.
Separately, Pelosi told reporters her preference was to complete the six outstanding appropriations measures outside of the DHS bill, while punting the fight over border security into next year under a CR through Sept. 30, 2019.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby, R-Alabama, said Wednesday that a lot rests on those three reaching some type of agreement.
“We’re at an impasse right now,” Shelby said. “I think that something’s got to be worked out between the president and Schumer and Pelosi, and us, but them mainly, because a lot of us believe that we’re this close to closing on” the remaining spending bills.
If they cannot come to an agreement that is supported by a majority of the House and at least 60 senators, it’s possible that a partial government shutdown would begin throughout portions of the federal government just 3 days before Christmas.
(Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report.)
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