Gee, it’s like the NFL’s Super Bowl … if they kept postponing each quarter for a week or two at a time. This week, lawmakers will gather in Washington to see if they can punt final spending decisions on a budget that’s already five months overdue. If they can’t lateral by Thursday, we’ll get yet another shutdown, only this time it might be both parties that would force it:
GOP leaders are eyeing a six-week funding bill that would keep the government’s lights on until March 23. The measure could include sweeteners like funding for community health centers.
But even though leaders dismissed concerns that the government could close down again when current funding runs dry on Thursday, it’s still unclear whether frustrated defense hawks will go along with the plan to pass a funding bill without a boost for the military.
“We’ve got to get a deal on [budget] caps,” said Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.). “We have too many people, too many Republicans who are adamant that we got to come up with a defense number that takes into consideration the requirements that we need to meet for national security.”
Republicans want budget cap reform, especially on defense. Democrats want an immigration deal:
Democrats are insisting that Congress pass an immigration bill before they agree to a budget caps deal, which is needed to write a massive omnibus-spending bill for the rest of the fiscal year.
On that score, they may get some momentum from two senators who might do more to muck up the process than to clear it. John McCain (R-AZ) and Chris Coons (D-DE) will introduce a new bipartisan compromise that offers the White House even less than they got in the “gang of six” offer last month:
Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.) plan to formally introduce a bill that would grant permanent legal status to immigrant “dreamers” and start bolstering security along the U.S.-Mexico border. But the measure would not call for spending the $30 billion President Trump is seeking to fortify the border with new wall and fence construction.
And the McCain-Coons plan would grant legal status to dreamers who have been in the country since 2013 — a larger pool of immigrants than the 1.8 million Trump supports legalizing.
The bill says nothing about curbing family-based legal migration or making changes to the diversity lottery program — two other priorities for Trump and conservative Republicans.
At least the previous group, led by Lindsey Graham, offered a couple of bones to the White House on border security. According to the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, this offers a broader amnesty for less assurance of funding for the border wall. It’s “nearly identical” to a compromise bill in the House that has drawn 54 co-sponsors, but has just as much chance of success with Donald Trump. And none of this, except for the relatively small amount of border-wall funding involved, has nothing to do with overall appropriations.
This “deal”, by the way, would only punt the ball until March 23rd. It would make no progress on pushing through final decisions on appropriatons, which were due by October 1st of last year. It would only grease the wheels for six more weeks of spending, at which time Chuck Schumer would appear to see if he casts a shadow, and another unrelated political deal would punt the ball yet again.
Get ready for another week of political football. This time it might not be just the Democrats who get flagged for delay of game. In Washington’s Budget Bowl, it’s always a two-minute drill, and both the offense and defense fumble away their opportunities to end the game.