February 19, 2019

Congress Facing Midnight Deadline To Avoid Government Shutdown

10 February 2018, 06:56 | Devin Moran

Alex Wong Getty Images

Alex Wong  Getty Images

Pelosi is under vast pressure from immigration activists and progressive lawmakers in her caucus to take a hardline for "dreamers", the young undocumented immigrants who could lose protections from deportation under a program that Donald Trump has rescinded. However, it only funds the government through March 23. The deal raises those caps, which were set by a 2011 law, by about $300 billion through fiscal 2019, which ends September 30, 2019.

Good to know that, even though Dems are having to take stock of their own internal crises as they vote for a budget plan that includes much of the spending they want at the expense of further ostracizing Dreamers and immigrants' rights groups and losing their major point of leverage, the president can still be petty about needing bipartisan support for legislation.

The shutdown - technically a lapse in agency appropriations - was the second government closure in less than a month, another product of election-year partisan disputes and persistent internal divisions in both parties. A shutdown essentially cuts the federal workforce in half, with those dubbed non-essential not allowed to work, while military and essential workers remain on the job. Paul refused to yield the floor, spurning attempts by various senators to move toward a vote that was already assured to approve the budget plan.

He said the bill ends the Obama-era policy of pledging equal support for military and non-military issues and begins the process of restoring the military with proper funding. "I can't in all honesty look the other way". He said the 652-page measure was "printed at midnight" and was a bill that "no one has read".

On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced a deal on budget caps that would increase investments in domestic programs and the military by roughly $300 billion over the next two years: The deal lifts funding for domestic programs by $128 billion and hikes defense budgets by $160 billion.

Under Senate rules, any member can speak for as long as he or she desires, unless three-fifths of the body votes to end debate. But Paul withheld his consent, angling for a vote on his amendment that would instead preserve the so-called sequestration budget caps.

Paul's action also threw into chaos a carefully choreographed timetable for how the day's legislative business was to be conducted, with swift Senate and House votes so that the budget deal could be sent to the White House Trump's signature with time to spare before midnight in Washington, when federal spending authority ended absent an extension.

"We're not going to get DACA as part of this", said Rep. John Yarmuth of Kentucky, the top Democrat on the Budget Committee.

The budget bill would allow for US$165 billion in extra defence spending and US$131 billion more for non-military programs, including health, infrastructure, disaster relief and efforts to tackle an opioid crisis in the country.

The accord drew opposition from opposite extremes of Congress' ideological spectrum, but not in sufficient numbers to threaten passage.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and others in her party had opposed the bill because Republican House leaders would not guarantee her a debate later on steps to protect about 700,000 "Dreamer" immigrants from deportation.

"They live and work here. We could have done 40 amendments", Paul said. "Vote against this budget". Under federal law, passage of the measure is enough to call off the shutdown; Trump is expected to sign the measure as soon as he receives it.

Bipartisan negotiations have yet to reach a deal on an overhaul of America's immigration.

But in an unexpected turn of events, the deadline was missed because Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul, objecting to deficit spending in the bill, engaged in a nine-hour, on-again, off-again protest and floor speech that leaders could not stop.

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