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Congress is punting on the government shutdown deadline

06 December 2017

The vote was 222-192, with all Democrats opposed. Complicating the search for a pact are disputes over immigration, health and other issues folded into the year-end mix.

Conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus asked House Republican leaders to extend the duration of the stopgap measure through December 30 in exchange for their votes for the House to go to conference with the Senate on tax legislation, which moved Congress closer to a final bill for a major tax overhaul.

Rep. David Brat, a member of the House Freedom Caucus from Virginia, said conservatives wanted assurances that House GOP leaders would try to pass a bill with a majority of Republican votes and not rely on Democrats to get it through.

The December 8 deadline to agree on a federal spending measure is rapidly approaching, and the pressure to avoid a government shutdown is intensifying.

Hours before Trump and Capitol Hill leaders were to hold a budget meeting last Tuesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., abruptly called off the session.

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In the Senate, several senators balked at the idea of a December 30 spending bill with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, saying he preferred a deal to December 22.

"We need to reach a budget agreement that equally boosts funds for our military and key priorities here at home", Pelosi and Schumer said in a statement. And in what seemed an attempt to isolate the president, they said they hoped he'd be amenable to an agreement "as negotiations with our Republican counterparts continue".

With the budget chafing under spending caps imposed by a 2011 bipartisan budget deal, Democrats want defense and domestic programs to get equal funding increases.

"We have to provide funding for community health centres and (the Children´s Health Insurance Program), as well as relief for the millions of Americans still reeling from natural disasters", they added. Trump repealed DACA in September, ending the program that protects young immigrants who were brought to the USA illegally as children from deportation. Although they had planned to attend, they changed their minds after President Trump tweeted his doubts that they'd come to any agreement.

The group said it would not vote for any spending bill that includes a codification of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which shields undocumented people who came to the United States as minors from deportation.

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Mark Meadows, the North Carolina Republican who is chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, wouldn't say how far he's willing to push Republican leadership.

White House spokesman Raj Shah and a spokesman for McConnell confirmed Thursday's meeting. On Monday night, in protest of the shorter bill, Freedom Caucus members almost sank a procedural vote to go to conference committee on the recently passed tax bill.

That proposal would need support from Democrats in the Senate to change the law that ties the level of defense spending to the level of non-defense discretionary spending.

GOP leaders hope to send Trump a final tax package before Christmas, and there's a growing consensus that they have a strong chance to succeed.

Both bills would slash the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent, eliminate some popular deductions and double the standard deduction used by most taxpayers. They have modest differences over items like whether to reduce or fully repeal the tax on the most expensive estates.

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Congress is punting on the government shutdown deadline