Congress to vote Thursday for funding bill to avoid government shutdow


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican leaders in the U.S. Congress stepped up their efforts to pass a temporary extension in funding government operations and avert a shutdown, scheduling a vote on the measure for later Thursday.

For months, the Republican-controlled Congress has been struggling to fund the government, which is now operating on its third temporary funding extension since the 2018 fiscal year began on Oct. 1.

Democrats insist that a long-term spending bill covering “Dreamers,” illegal immigrants brought to the country as children, who were protected from deportation by former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Republican President Donald Trump ordered DACA to end in March and asked Congress to come up with a legislative fix. But bipartisan congressional negotiations with the White House faltered last week, prompting Republican leaders to begin pushing for the passage of a stopgap measure to fund the government through Feb. 16.

The White House said on Wednesday it supported the passage of a short-term funding measure and that immigration talks could resume next week.

“Let’s make a budget deal by Friday and let’s come back to work aggressively on Monday and make a deal on DACA and responsible immigration reform,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.

Republicans hold a 51-49 majority in the Senate and most legislation, including spending bills or an immigration deal, will require 60 votes to pass.

A vote on the bill is expected to come after 2:30 p.m. EST (1930 GMT), House Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said in a statement.

Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the chamber would take up the short-term funding measure as soon as the House approves it.

But Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said on Wednesday that there was “revulsion” among his colleagues for the stopgap proposal in the House and that an “overwhelming number” would not support it.

At least one Republican, Senator Lindsey Graham, who is involved in the immigration negotiations, has also said he would not vote for a short-term funding measure.

It was also unclear whether Republicans would have the votes in the House to pass a short-term fix since members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus prefer additional defense funding.

The group’s leader, Representative Mark Meadows, said on Thursday there was not yet enough support among conservatives for the short-term funding measure.

“We still don’t have the votes here in the House. We made good progress last night. Hopefully, we’ll get there today,” Meadows told MSNBC, the cable news network. He said he spoke with Trump on Wednesday night. “He does not want a shutdown. He made that very clear.”

Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell and Susan Heavey, editing by Peter Cooney, Larry King; Writing by Amanda Becker; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe

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