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Gov’t Shutdown Looms as Senate Debates Spending Bill

Gov’t Shutdown Looms as Senate Debates Spending Bill

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WASHINGTON — By late Friday afternoon, the Senate had not yet voted on a continuing resolution bill to keep the federal government running. Without its passage, funding will expire Friday at midnight.

Republicans are battling to pass the bill, but Democrats say they won’t back legislation that doesn’t provide a solution for the “Dreamers,” undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children.

Because the bill involves spending, 60 votes are needed in the Senate for it to pass.

The continuing resolution, a stopgap measure, would keep the government funded until Feb. 16. But it includes a 6-year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). It would also delay several Obamacare taxes including the medical device tax and the unpopular “Cadillac tax” on high-cost health insurance plans.

President Trump invited Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to the White House to iron out a deal Friday afternoon, but Schumer left without one.

“We made some progress but we still have a good number of disagreements. The discussion will continue,” Schumer told reporters outside the Capitol, according to The Hill.

Meanwhile, on the Senate floor, Republicans and Democrats spent the day shoveling blame on each other.

“At midnight tonight, funding for programs that millions of Americans rely on, veteran services opioid treatment centers, death benefits for the families of the fallen soldiers and health insurance for 9 million vulnerable children, would be thrown into chaos,” said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in a speech Friday morning.

He said Democrats were jeopardizing funding for national security and CHIP to force action on the “non-imminent issue” of “illegal immigration,” referring to the Dreamer program, technically known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which President Trump began to unravel in September.

Participants in the program whose DACA permits expire will be unable to renew them after March 5, according to Vox.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said he wants to find a legislative fix for “Dreamers,” but he doesn’t think the issue can be resolved with a few “quick round-tables.”

In a press conference Friday morning, Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, also slammed Democrats and dubbed the looming crisis as “the Schumer shutdown.”

He said he couldn’t understand why Democrats are blocking the resolution, when they support a “clean” spending bill and they support funding CHIP program and they like the idea of delaying certain Affordable Care Act taxes.

“They don’t oppose anything in the bill, but they are opposing the bill,” he said.

For their part, Democrats argued that Republicans, who control the White House and hold majorities in both the Senate and the House, need to do their jobs and govern.

“We’ve had an incredible failure of leadership,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) who accused Republicans of “kicking the can” and “moving the goalposts” by putting forward yet another continuing resolution.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said “a continuing resolution is like driving your car looking in the rearview mirror … that is no way to operate.”

Tester also described the “hypocrisy” of Republican members of Congress who suddenly “found religion” and became passionate about children’s health insurance, funding for which has been stalled for more than 100 days.

“We haven’t heard crickets from them until the last day or two … Where’ve you been?”

On Thursday evening, the House passed a continuing resolution by a vote of 230-197 a measure that included a 6-year reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

That vote, was largely along party lines, with 224 Republicans voting for it and 186 Democrats voting against it. Six Democrats crossed over and voted for the bill, while 11 Republicans voted against it.

If the Senate fails to pass a spending bill, triggering a government shutdown, many government activities will continue as usual, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Social Security payments will still be deposited for about 53,000 workers whose pay isn’t directly tied to an annual appropriation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture will continue food inspections.

However, roughly half of all employees of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would be furloughed.

Joyce Frieden, News Editor, contributed to this article.

2018-01-19T17:45:00-0500

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