Government Shutdown Looming

November 29, 2017

Recently, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) indicated that Republicans will likely try to pass a short-term spending bill to prevent a government shutdown on Dec. 9. Speaker Ryan has said the House Republican’s goal was to pass a long-term spending bill by the end of the year, but suggested lawmakers may not be able to do so by a Dec. 8 deadline.

In order to avoid a government shutdown and pass a spending bill by next week, President Donald Trump had planned to meet with top Congressional Democrats to see if the two sides could iron out a deal that will keep the government running. However, Democratic leaders pulled out of the planned meeting at the White House with President Trump after he tweeted that he didn’t “see a deal” to avoid a government shutdown.

“Given that the President doesn’t see a deal between Democrats and the White House, we believe the best path forward is to continue negotiating with our Republican counterparts in Congress instead,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a joint statement.

Meanwhile, many Republicans have suggested a stopgap measure will probably be needed to buy more time to negotiate a longer-term deal. With tax reform taking the bulk of the Congress’s attention, efforts to hammer out a spending deal with Democrats have moved slowly, but time is quickly running out.

Republicans will need the support of at least eight Democrats in the Senate to approve either a spending bill or a short-term extension. For Democrats, the spending battle is one of a few leverage points to advance their priorities, such as passing an immigration fix for immigrants who were brought into the country illegally as young children. Other priorities for Democrats is Hurricane relief aid, as well as an increased urgency to find money for the children’s health program that serves more than 8 million low-income children. The program expired on Oct. 1, and states are continuing to use unspent funds. Arizona, California, Minnesota, Ohio, Oregon and the District of Columbia are among those expected to deplete that money by late December or in January.

Republicans need Democratic support to postpone the deadline as well, meaning Democrats could make demands and threaten a shutdown over the short-term extension. Democrats, however, seem unlikely to force a fight on a short-term spending measure if they feel there is progress toward a larger deal a few weeks later. Republicans want to pass a final version of their tax-reform bill before Christmas, putting the self-imposed tax deadline around the same time as the new spending deadline.