Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Congress Negotiates Spending Bill as Deadline Looms

Drew Thies

Congressional leaders are still working out differences on a spending bill that needs to be passed by Friday. Plans to unveil the proposal earlier this week were delayed by disagreements over a variety of controversial issues.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) remained optimistic, saying Tuesday he expects a bill to pass before Thursday.

That timing still only leaves the Senate one day to work out disagreements before final passage. Because of Senate rules, this would allow any one Senator to derail the process and shut down the government for at least a limited amount of time.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) caused a shutdown last month in protest over a budget deal. He made no assurances he wouldn’t pursue such a tactic a second time.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said that he expects lawmakers to pass a short term spending patch and work on a larger package over the weekend. "We're going to be here into the weekend, perhaps. But I think there could be some measures taken to keep the lights on,” he said.

Congressional leaders hoped to release the bill, which would fund the government through September, on Monday night with a House vote on Wednesday.

Disagreements over specific policies are elevated by the fact that many lawmakers view this as the last major package that will move in Congress this year. Members of Congress want their priorities signed into law before campaigning ahead of the midterm elections slows legislative progress to a standstill.

Major impediments to an agreement include funding for a border wall, a New York infrastructure project, and provisions related to the Russia investigation. A White House staffer said President Donald Trump will support a bill that increases funding for the military and border security.

AHCA/NCAL will continue to monitor the bill as negotiations come to a close and it moves through Congress.

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