Washington – There will be two fresh Senate faces and some familiar but stubborn clashes facing lawmakers Wednesday as Congress begins its 2018 session staring at the year’s first potential calamity — an election-year government shutdown unless there’s a bipartisan spending pact by Jan. 19.
Looking to prevent a closure of federal agencies, top White House officials planned to meet at the Capitol Wednesday with House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and each chamber’s top Democrat.
Their goal is to find a compromise on raising limits on defense and domestic spending that eluded lawmakers before they left Washington for the holidays. In a statement Tuesday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said President Donald Trump wants a two-year pact “that provides realistic budget caps and provides certainty for our national security,” suggesting he was open to a bargain.
In one complication, Democrats have linked closure on the budget to protecting from deportation hundreds of thousands of immigrants who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children. Both parties have been divided over the so-called Dreamers.
Parachuting into this is a Democratic duo whose Senate arrivals are extraordinary.
Alabama’s Doug Jones narrowly upended Roy Moore, the polarizing Republican, in a special election last month to become the first Senate Democrat in a quarter-century from one of the nation’s reddest states. Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith will replace Democrat Al Franken, the one-time TV comedian who was becoming one of his party’s most familiar liberal voices but resigned after a succession of sexual harassment accusations. His last day in Congress was Tuesday.
Both new lawmakers will be sworn in when the Senate gavels into session Wednesday.
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