House passes short-term budget spending measure as talks falter
Washington — The House passed a short-term spending bill Tuesday that would keep federal agencies running for another month in hopes the additional time will help negotiators wrap up more than $1.4 trillion in unfinished appropriations bills.
The bill would avert a Thanksgiving government shutdown but opens the door to a possible shutdown just before Christmas.
The 231-192 vote sent the measure to the Senate, which is on track to pass the legislation in time to meet a midnight Thursday deadline. President Donald Trump has indicated he will sign it.
The monthlong spending bill comes as negotiations on the full-year spending package have hit a rough patch. Most recently there was a failed effort by lawmakers to win even more money on top of $100 billion in additional agency dollars permitted by July’s hard-won two-year budget and debt deal.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who negotiated the July budget deal with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., reentered the talks last week but was unable to produce a breakthrough.
The measure would fund the government through Dec. 20. There isn’t much optimism, however, that the deadline will make it easier for a successful negotiation on full-year measure that would fully put in place the July budget pact.
The House is also expected to be in the midst of impeachment proceedings in December, adding another obstacle to negotiations.
The chief holdup is Trump’s demands for up to $8.6 billion more for the U.S.-Mexico border wall. Republicans controlling the Senate have stuck with Trump despite worries that an impasse over his demands could force Congress into resorting to funding the government for the entire budget year at current spending levels.
“It is vital that we work in good-faith to fund important priorities for the coming year,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
The measure contains an assortment of technical provisions to ensure that spending on the 2020 census can ramp up despite delays in the agency’s full-year funding bill. It also reverses a planned cut in highway spending next year and offers greater assurances about funding a 3.1 percent pay raise for the military that takes effect Jan. 1.
It would extend, for three more months, surveillance-related provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that expire Dec. 15. One would allow the government to gather details of call records, gain access to business records, and conduct roving wiretaps of people trying to duck surveillance.