This post is excerpted from the INDY’s morning newsletter, Primer. To read this morning’s edition in full, click here. To get all the day’s local and national headlines and insights delivered straight to your inbox, sign up here. We spent more than a few words yesterday wondering if Congress would manage to pass a spending bill to keep the government from shutting down at midnight tonight. As of Wednesday evening, things were looking more than a little iffy; culminating with an inconclusive and tense closed-door meeting between Republicans. Donald Trump even weighed in on Twitter (of course he did), accusing Democrats of courting a shutdown to distract from the tax cut. Though it was unclear if Republicans would ultimately be able to cobble together the votes they needed to avoid the headache of a pre-Christmas government shutdown, many speculated that Congress would just approve another stopgap measure to keep the doors open until January 19.
That’s exactly what happened. Yesterday, Congress approved a plan to fund the government through January, essentially punting the decision down the road another month, The New York Times explains.
- “Lawmakers needed to take action because government funding was set to lapse at the end of Friday, though as Thursday began, it was unclear whether Republican leaders would be able to find the votes they needed to avert a crisis.”
- “The extension of government funding saves Republicans from what would have been a colossal embarrassment just after they celebrated the passage of the biggest tax rewrite in decades. But the lack of a resolution to several pressing issues leaves lawmakers facing a tough task when they return after the holidays, with the possibility of a high-stakes showdown when the next government funding deadline approaches.”
- “Democrats complained that Congress was lurching from one crisis to the next, with a stack of big issues still unresolved, including a long-term spending deal.”
- The short-term bill does, however, include funds to continue the Children’s Health Insurance Program, (CHIP), through March. The program’s uncertain future, as we discussed yesterday, has been a huge source of anxiety for the families that rely on the program. In North Carolina alone, more than 200,000 children are enrolled in CHIP.
- “But the $2.85 billion provided for CHIP is far less than the five years of funds that congressional leaders had promised, and it is unclear whether those funds will be adequate. Some states had already begun to inform parents that their children could lose coverage early next year if Congress did not act. The bill does not provide the certainty that state officials had been seeking.”
- “Leaders of both parties in the House and the Senate support legislation to provide five years of funds for CHIP, but they have been unable to agree on how to pay for it. The standoff over CHIP is remarkable because the program has had strong bipartisan support since it was created 20 years
ago,when Bill Clinton was president and Republicans controlled both houses of Congress.”
WHAT IT MEANS:
- Basically, we don’t have to deal with the absolute chaos of a government shutdown come midnight. But, as many have repeatedly said, the stopgap funding measure just puts off everything another month. We have a name for this approach: avoidance. And it’s also just messy governance. All the contentious and tough issues Congress is grappling with—immigration, health care, and surveillance, to name a few—are going to be just as divisive next month, and our lawmakers are eventually going to have to take them on.
- Among the pressing issues sure to return in January: A fix for DACA, the Obama-era program that granted temporary work permits and relief from deportation to undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as minors.
- From Politico: “Lawmakers staved off a last-minute revolt from Democrats who threatened to vote against any funding measure if it didn’t include legal protections for young undocumented immigrants who are losing work permits after Trump rescinded an Obama-era executive action. But the contentious issue is sure to return in January when the next round of spending talks resume.
- “The Republican continuing resolution serves only to continue the anxiety in the lives of DREAMers, veterans, children and working families across America,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). “It had been our hope not only to improve the quality of this bill but to add the DREAM Act to it, which enjoys strong bipartisan support from the American people.”
- The Congressional Hispanic Caucus met with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in an impromptu meeting earlier Thursday afternoon, pressing the New York Democrat to persuade his ranks to reject the funding bill. However, it was clear after the meeting that there would not be enough Democratic senators to block the bill later Thursday over immigration.”
- I truly wish I could tell you. We can be sure that we will hear many of the exact same conversations in about a month, as Congress takes up the funding question again. But we have no idea how things will turn out. It’s the same script, but the ending next month could be entirely different. Perhaps Representative Republican Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida said it best: “January is going to be a bear.”