Congressional Republicans are hoping to avert an impending government shutdown this week, with Washington engrossed in tax reform.
The House Rules Committee is scheduled to meet on Tuesday afternoon to set the terms of debate over a bill that would fund the government for two weeks. The United States government runs out of short-term funding on Friday.
The committee vote is set to come one day after the House is expected to advance a watershed tax reform plan. Early Saturday morning, Senate Republicans approved of landmark corporate tax reductions, two weeks after their House counterparts passed their own version of the legislation.
The Senate’s bill contrasts somewhat sharply with the House iteration, containing major changes to healthcare law. The upper chamber agreed to repeal the Obamacare individual mandate and to provisions that could trigger $25 billion in cuts to Medicare.
Every Senate Republican except Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) supported the legislation, with Democrats united in opposition. The House bill advanced in a 227-205 vote. Thirteen Republicans joined the entire House Democratic Caucus in voting against the proposal.
Senators and Representatives must now iron out their differences in a conference committee before voting to send a final bill to President Trump.
There is some doubt over whether House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will be able to pass a two-week stop-gap to keep the government open, but the dispute is mostly over the length of any interim deal.
“There’s real disagreements over how long it should go. I don’t think there’s much disagreement about whether we should do one or not,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) told The Washington Post on Friday, after a meeting with his colleagues.
Any shutdown drama, however, is likely to occur in the Senate, where Republicans need the support of eight Democrats to block a filibuster.
Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) has already vowed to oppose any government funding measure that doesn’t grant protection to Dreamers—some 800,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children, and received temporary status from the Obama administration.
In September, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that their temporary status would expire in the Spring of 2018.
“We can’t let this to slip into January, February with a March 5 deadline,” Durbin said last week. “It should be done, it can be done, easily, simply and quickly.”
Another major bone of contention is a program that grants health insurance to 9 million low income children. Democrats have admonished their Republican colleagues for allowing financing for the initiative to expire at the start of October.
The likelihood of Senate Democrats threatening brinkmanship can only have gone up after tax reform passed last week.
The version that passed the Senate was distributed just hours before a final vote, containing numerous handwritten provisions of dubious legibility.
“No, I haven’t had time to read the 500-page #GOPTaxScam bill that we’re voting on tonight,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) tweeted on Friday evening.
“I couldn’t read it if I tried–and I did,” Warren added, attaching a video of herself attempting to recite handwritten parts of the legislation.
On Monday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) downplayed the chance of a shutdown.
“We need to reach a budget agreement that equally boosts funds for our military and key priorities here at home,” he said in a joint statement with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif).
The pair are meeting with Trump on Thursday, hoping that they can reach a deal that will include status for Dreamers, money for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and funding for flood insurance, according to Politico.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, meanwhile, isn’t interested in using government funding negotiations to address the situation of Dreamers.
“I don’t think that Democrats would be very smart to say they want to shut down the government over a non-emergency that we can address anytime between now and March,” McConnell said on Sunday. He described a possible shutdown this month over Dreamers as “ridiculous,” citing deadlines.
President Trump is seeking to tie the fate of Dreamers to funds for “The Wall.” During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump had promised to construct a complete southern border wall, financed entirely by Mexico.