The House on Thursday easily passed a stopgap spending measure to avert a shutdown at month’s end. But the hard part is just beginning.
Democratic and Republican leaders will spend the next two months attempting to forge a lasting deal to fund the government involving all of the same political landmines that thrust Washington into a 35-day shutdown — and more.
The border wall. Detention beds. Immigration agents. And now, President Donald Trump’s cash grab from the Pentagon to fund the wall.
“That is going to be a big fight, like we saw last time,” Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) said in an interview. “Nobody wants a shutdown. But what do you do when you’re so far apart?”
After a 301-123 vote, the House-approved funding bill — which keeps the government open until just before Thanksgiving — now heads to the Senate, which is expected to clear the legislation well before the Sept. 30 deadline.
Congressional leaders will then have until Nov. 21 to reach an accord for full-year funding, or, as many lawmakers expect, another funding patch through Christmas. That sets up Congress for an eerily similar scenario to fall 2018, when dealmaking broke down and Trump shuttered the government after Democrats refused to fund his wall.
Even this short-term funding bill resulted in some behind the scenes drama: Democratic and Republican spending leaders struggled to reach a deal for days as they sparred over Trump’s controversial aid program for farmers hit by his trade wars, Puerto Rico’s Medicaid funding, and, of course, the wall.
The most difficult piece of the upcoming funding talks center on a small slice of the $1.4 trillion budget: the Department of Homeland Security. That bill alone, and the related fight over the wall, was the trigger of the longest-ever government shutdown that stretched from last December to January.
So far this year, neither party has formally released its opening bid on the DHS funding bill. House Democratic leaders have said they plan to offer zero dollars for Trump’s wall, while pursuing more restrictions for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, including fewer detention beds.
Senate Democrats, meanwhile, have skewered Republicans for proposing that $5 billion from domestic programs be spent on the wall, with plans to divert another $7 billion in military construction funds to border projects. Those fiscal 2020 funding levels could be in flux, however, as both parties in the upper chamber continue negotiating behind the scenes.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby acknowledged earlier this week that bipartisanship in the appropriations process has eroded over funding for Trump’s wall.
“The controversy has seemed to grow and gotten deeper in the Democratic ranks,” the Alabama Republican said. When asked on Thursday if a short-term spending bill is just punting on that contentious issue, he replied, “Could be.”
Democratic lawmakers view the request for more wall funding as a slap in the face. The White House already unilaterally diverted several billion dollars from military construction projects for his wall this year.
“They know darn well that $12 billion in additional monies for the wall isn’t going to fly with Senate Democrats or the House,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said.
Funding disputes over the wall are part of why the Senate has yet to pass a single spending bill on the floor — a delayed start that has complicated any attempt by the two chambers to begin talks on a final deal. Disagreements over abortion-related provisions have also ensnared some of the Senate’s spending bills.
House Democrats, meanwhile, have passed funding bills for nearly every other department.
But Democratic lawmakers say they are also unwilling to delay consideration of a DHS funding bill for much longer — fearful of simply maintaining current funding and other policy provisions that Democrats are eager to change.
“One of the things I’m going to be pushing is that DHS doesn’t become the orphan child again. But that there’s going to be a total package,” said California Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, who leads Democratic negotiations for the House DHS funding bill.
Progressive lawmakers, in particular, are eager to use the upcoming funding talks to fight Trump’s border policies, which include not just the wall, but a slew of new hard-line moves taken over the summer.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters this week that he expects “some big fights” this fall — “including how people are treated at the border.”
Still, Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), who leads the House Appropriations Committee, downplayed the drama.
“There are many difficult issues. We’ll sit down and work them out,” Lowey said. “That’s what government is all about.”
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine