Battle to avert United States govt shutdown moves to Senate

Carolyn Kaster  AP

Carolyn Kaster AP

At the heart of Democrats' concerns is the almost 800,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children and are now in the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program - a temporary visa program enacted by former President Barack Obama in 2012 but never signed into law.

House Republicans won passage of a stopgap spending bill that would keep the government open through February 16th.

Early on Thursday, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said the House bill to fund the government was "very likely to be unacceptable to the Senate". Despite the conservative party's 51-member majority there, the bill has a higher hurdle to cross because 60 votes are necessary, and some Republicans already have said they will vote against it.

In a tweet, the Republican president criticised a sweetener added to the spending bill by congressional leaders to win Democratic lawmakers' votes, BBC reported on Thursday.

"And you'll probably see a lot more Democrats, because I think some of them are going to have a hard time voting against CHIP", he said, foreshadowing the blame game if Democrats oppose the measure.

The short-term spending bill will keep United States government open through February 16, while prolonging the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for six years.

Protesters calling for an immigration bill addressing the so-called Dreamers, young adults who were brought to the United States as children, rally on Capitol Hill in Washington on December 20.

If Congress can't agree on a spending bill by midnight Friday or soon after, about 800,000 federal workers face furloughs and many government functions would be closed. The proposal, which would continue health care benefits for 9 million children, would come at the expense of another vulnerable group: the hundreds of thousands of people previously covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, or DREAMers.

Federal financing for the programme that serves almost nine million children expired in October and several states are close to exhausting their money, and Congress has passed several short-term patches to keep their programmes afloat.

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Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., said Thursday morning that he didn't know if they had enough votes to pass the CR. Republican senators also discussed the possibility of a much shorter spending bill at a Wednesday lunch, hoping to keep the pressure on Congress to hammer out a large agreement rather than punt on contentious spending and immigration issues.

"At some point, Congress needs to do better than government-by-crisis, short-term fixes, and sidestepping hard issues".

But the bill's prospects in the Senate are uncertain.

Will the government actually shut down?

Meanwhile, hard-line Democrats view a shutdown as something they could blame on Trump.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., also urged Senate Democrats to pass the stopgap measure.

The last time a #government shutdown took place was back in 2013 when the likes of Republican Sen.

Trump was at the Pentagon to meet with senior military officials in advance of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis' release of the new National Defense Strategy.

So far, it is unclear if lawmakers can pass the continuing resolution with only Republican votes.

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