House Passes a Defense Budget with a CR

February 7, 2018

On Feb. 6, the House passed by a vote of 245-182 a stopgap bill, H.R. 1892, that averts a government shutdown through March 23 that is attached to a $659.2 billion full year defense spending measure for fiscal year 2018 and two years of funding for community health centers, as well as an extension of long-expired Medicare funding. The Small Business Administration will also receive $225 million to continue issuing disaster loans and other types of assistance to the areas impacted by the 2017 hurricanes and wildfires. The measure moves to the Senate, and lawmakers have until Feb. 8 to pass a stopgap bill if they want to avert their second government shutdown of the year.

Introduced on Feb. 5, this fifth stopgap measure is intended to attract votes from both sides of the aisle, but its fate remains uncertain in the Senate, where some Democrats are seeking defense spending increases be matched on the non-defense side of the budget. Absent a larger deal on lifting the budget caps, Senate Democrats are expected to reject the House’s defense spending bill, which will require 60 votes to overcome a procedural hurdle. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) have been meeting and negotiating a deal to work out these spending cap differences for both defense and domestic programs.

Budget talks have been paired with the debate happening on immigration as lawmakers are trying to craft a bill to protect young immigrant “Dreamers” from deportation after President Trump formally ends the program in March. Democrats fought for the continuation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program during the previous stopgap debate in January and then eventually relented after winning a promise from Senate leaders that it would be the next debate. Groups of lawmakers are meeting behind closed doors to develop legislation that would also include border security enhancements and other immigration law changes.

But as senators struggle to craft a bipartisan immigration bill, some are mulling a one-year extension to the DACA program, which allows immigrants who came to the country illegally as minors to apply to live and work here as adults. Under Trump’s order, the program expires March 5, although a court case has allowed it to keep running for now. The one-year extension may not advance, as some senators from both parties have vocally opposed it. The White House has shown no interest in extending the program, thus leaving the matter with Congress to pass a law protecting Dreamers.

Meanwhile, lawmakers were planning on working a short week as House Democrats were scheduled to leave on Feb. 7 for their annual planning retreat, but the stalemate over the spending bill may force them to remain in session.

The full text of the 515-page CR is here. And a summary is here.