Lawmakers eye two-week extension to budget negotiations

Lawmakers eye two-week extension to budget negotiations

The short-term legislation is created to give bargainers more time to address remaining disputes over spending levels and other issues that have been folded into the year-end mix, including immigration and health care.

House Republicans over the weekend introduced a stopgap measure that would fund the government at current levels until December 22 to give lawmakers time to reach a deal on a longer-term bill.

The GOP will need Democratic votes to push the spending bills through Congress, another reason the pathway is unclear for averting a closure just weeks before the start of the 2018 election year.

McConnell is expected to join House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) at a meeting Thursday with President Trump at the White House to discuss a budget deal.

Republicans have a majority in both the House and Senate. Democrats are demanding that the caps on non-defense and defense spending be raised equally. They have yet to say what they will do.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said during a weekly briefing with reporters that Republicans expect to vote this week on a measure to extend the CR from December 8 to December 22 to "give us a little room to talk" about a bipartisan deal to raise defense and non-defense spending above caps mandated by the 2011 Budget Control Act.

In further indication of the problems GOP leaders face, 34 House Republicans sent a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., urging him to hold a vote by year's end on extending protections for hundreds of thousands of immigrants who arrived in the USA illegally as children. But after the Republican caucus met Tuesday, Walker said he could be "OK" with a bill that ended December 22 if Republican leaders were willing to negotiate with conservatives on the next phase of crafting a budget for the rest of the fiscal year. Asked if he could live with a bill that runs through the end of the year, he said, "I don't think that's the best way forward".

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Conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus want an extension until December 30, fearing that the short-term date would give Democrats move leverage in negotiations. What Senate Democrats say they want in return for a yes votes on a temporary spending bill.

Several Republicans said after Tuesday's meeting that the bill would likely run through December 22 but said there were no final decisions. Their antics displayed a "lack of seriousness", he said.

The Democratic leaders said a number of subjects should be on the table at the meeting, which would include the Republican leaders of the House and Senate, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell.

On Monday, McConnell expressed more confidence, saying, "We will pass it before the end of the week".

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 centers and CHIP, as well as relief for the millions of Americans still reeling from natural disasters".

In addition, some from both parties want to restore billions in federal payments to health insurers that Trump halted last autumn.

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