House Republicans introduced a stop-gap spending bill late Wednesday night to allow negotiations on a spending agreement to continue through May 5 without the threat of a government shutdown.
The short-term spending measure, which would extend current funding levels beyond the end of this week, comes as negotiators are nearing an agreement on a budget to increase military spending and border security and keep the government open through the end of September. The decision to begin work on a very short extension comes as no surprise, the final steps of a spending deal could drag on beyond the current April 28 deadline and congressional leaders are eager to minimize the threat of a shutdown, according to aides familiar with the talks.
“I am optimistic that a final funding package will be completed soon,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.). “It is time that this essential work is completed so that critical programs and activities — including national defense — are properly and adequately funded for the year.”
White House officials notified lawmakers earlier in the day that President Trump abandoned a threat to end subsidy payments under the Affordable Care Act, a concession to Democrats that is expected to clear the way for a bipartisan budget agreement. Trump had threatened to cut off the subsidies in an attempt to force Democrats to pay for a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, a fight that became less serious after Republicans withdrew their border wall request this week.
“It is good that once again the president seems to be backing off his threat to hold health care and government funding hostage,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said. “Like the withdrawal of money for the wall, this decision brings us closer to a bipartisan agreement to fund the government and is good news for the American people.”
The pair of GOP concessions eases chances that the government will shut down this weekend, but a number of smaller issues must be resolved before a spending deal can be finalized, according to several congressional aides involved in the talks. Democrats have refused to sign off on several GOP-written policy provisions, known as riders, including those that would restrict abortion access under the ACA and end Wall Street reforms passed under President Barack Obama.
Republicans have not indicated how they plan to handle the policy provisions, but most GOP negotiators said they were pleased with the direction of the negotiations, despite allowing Democrats victories on the border wall and health care. The spending bill is expected to include several White House priorities, such as increases in border security and defense spending, including an unspecified amount to repair fencing and new surveillance technology to patrol the nearly 2,000-mile border, the aides said. Democrats have said they support increased border security as long as no money goes toward building a physical wall.