Republicans and Democrats came together Friday in a grand gesture of bipartisanship and voted to fund the government … for seven more days.
The stopgap spending bill, passed by voice vote in the Senate, averted the government shutdown that would have happened if a bill hadn’t passed by midnight.
The extra week, Democrats and Republicans say, will give them the extra time they need to complete the delicate negotiations on how to fund the government through the end of September. Republicans may control both houses of Congress and the presidency, but passing the short-term spending bill requires 60 votes in the Senate and Republicans only have 52, which has given Democrats leverage in the negotiations.
“Our people on the Appropriations Committee stayed up until 1:30 a.m. last night,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters Friday. “They made a good deal of progress. But we still have some progress to come. Not all the poison-pill riders have been eliminated.”
President Trump has repeatedly thrown himself into the middle of those discussions over the last few weeks only to find himself largely rebuffed by members of both parties. The president demanded funding for his border wall for weeks but then said Sunday he could ask for it again in September. He threatened to strip away the $7 billion in health insurance subsidies under Obamacare, but it looks like those payments will remain.
Still, there are many contentious issues that Congress must resolve, including the expiration of a federal health care program for retired miners, money for border security (but not the wall), visas for Afghans who assisted the U.S. military, money for Puerto Rico, and military spending.
If Congress smooths out all of those issues next week to avoid a shutdown, the reprieve will be short as the U.S. is expected to hit the debt limit in August or September and Congress again runs out of money at the end of September. Congress will have to find the votes to raise the debt ceiling and then pass a spending bill or budget in order to avoid those two deadlines from turning into catastrophes.
But for now, Congress is only dealing with one deadline at a time. We are one week away from a shutdown, again. Let the countdown begin.
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