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Currency

Republicans scramble for votes as threat of a government shutdown looms

Republican leaders in the U.S. Congress stepped up their efforts to pass a temporary extension in funding and prevent the federal government from shutting down, scheduling a vote on the measure for later on Thursday.

For months, the Republican-controlled Congress has been struggling to fund the government, which is now operating on its third temporary funding extension since the 2018 fiscal year began on Oct. 1.

Democrats insist that a long-term spending bill include protection for “Dreamers” — adults brought to the country illegally as children, who were protected from deportation by former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.

Trump ordered DACA to end in March and asked Congress to come up with a legislative fix. But bipartisan congressional negotiations with the White House faltered last week, prompting Republican leaders to begin pushing for the passage of a stopgap measure to fund the government through Feb. 16.

The White House said on Wednesday it supported the passage of a short-term funding measure and that immigration talks could resume next week.

“Let’s make a budget deal by Friday and let’s come back to work aggressively on Monday and make a deal on DACA and responsible immigration reform,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.

Republicans hold a 51-49 majority in the Senate and most legislation, including spending bills or an immigration deal, will require 60 votes to pass.

A vote on the bill is expected to come after 2:30 p.m. ET, according a statement from House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s office.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate would take up the bill as soon as the House approves it.

He was still waiting to find out what Trump would support on immigration. “He has not yet indicated what measure he is willing to sign,” McConnell said.

Trump told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday that he rejected a bipartisan Senate deal on immigration last week negotiated by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Democratic Senator Dick Durbin because it took him “30 seconds” to realize it was a “horrible” deal.

“I was told that we had a deal — and the deal was an unacceptable deal. This was a deal that was unacceptable from the moment they started reading the provisions of the deal,” Trump said.

Following the break down in negotiations, the White House on Wednesday dispatched chief of staff John Kelly and legislative liaison Marc Short to Capitol Hill.

Kelly met with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in a meeting lawmakers described as cordial but revealed the two sides were as far apart as ever.

Senator Bob Menendez said the White House is making demands on immigration that go far beyond the scope of border security or the DACA program that would shield Dreamers from deportation.

Menendez said he hoped it was clear to Kelly that “they’re going to have to come more to the center if they truly want a fix.”

After a Wednesday meeting with House and Senate leadership from both parties, Short expressed concern that a bipartisan House bill to give Dreamers legal protections, put them on a pathway to citizenship and provide additional funding for border security was too broad in terms of which young immigrants it would cover.

“There’s still a lot to do,” Short said.

Graham, meanwhile, announced in his statement that his bipartisan deal, though already rejected by Trump, had picked up support from four more Republican senators, bringing the total to seven.

Republicans hold a slim 51-49 majority in the Senate and most legislation requires 60 votes for passage.

While the stop-gap funding measure backed by Republican leaders does not include a legislative shield for Dreamers, it does grant Democrats an unrelated, high-priority measure: a six-year reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Still, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer dismissed the Republican stopgap proposal as “a loser” that does not help veterans, opioid addicts, and retirees or meet defense needs. He said an “overwhelming number” of Democratic senators do not support it.

“We don’t know whether the House will send us this bill, but the revulsion towards that bill was broad and strong,” Schumer said.

Durbin, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, told reporters he was personally “fed up” with short-term funding measures and would not vote for it.

Source: cnbc economy
Republicans scramble for votes as threat of a government shutdown looms

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