The next government-shutdown deadline looms in 3 days -- here's the GOP's plan to avoid it

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  • The government will shut down at the end of Thursday if Congress does not pass funding legislation.
  • House Republicans on Monday released a plan to avoid a shutdown that includes funding for the military for the rest of the fiscal year and an extension of critical Medicare programs.
  • It is unclear whether that plan has enough support in the Senate to pass.

The government is set to shut down in three days absent more congressional action.

House Republicans on Monday unveiled a plan to keep the government funded, but it is unclear whether it has enough support to pass in both chambers of Congress – especially as the latest funding bill hit a wall in the Senate last month, leading to a three-day shutdown.

The proposal contains several components designed to act as sweeteners for various factions in Congress. Here’s a breakdown of this short-term funding bill, known as a continuing resolution:

  • It would extend government funding for non-defence programs to March 23 and increase funding for some miscellaneous items, such as an “additional amount to avoid delays in preparation for the 2020 Census” and the sale of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve fund.
  • It would extend defence funding for the rest of the fiscal year. This provision is designed to appeal to conservatives concerned about short-term funding bills’ effect on military readiness and long-term planning.
  • It would extend funding for a slew of Medicare programs involving community health centres, rural hospitals, and more.

If that sounds like kicking the can down the road, that’s because it is – for the most part.

The pattern – extend the deadline, sweeten the deal for reluctant members, and take care of the rest later – is well-worn; Congress used continuing resolutions in September, December, and January to keep the government open.

The plan appears likely to pass the House, as the addition of military funding for the rest of the year was enough to get the conservative House Freedom Caucus on board.

“The House Freedom Caucus supports the House Republican plan to pass a CR to March 23 that includes full funding for the military and community health centres,” the caucus said Monday.

But the strategy is wearing on many other members and, as evidenced by the latest shutdown, doesn’t guarantee necessary support in the Senate.

An increase in defence funding but not for domestic programs appears to be a non-starter for Senate Democrats. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the House plan “would be barreling headfirst into a dead end.”

The Senate could come up with a separate spending plan that increases the mandatory caps on defence and non-defence spending, allowing the government to stay open and setting up a broader deal on the allocation of the increased funding in the next few weeks.

Democrats want any long-term funding increase to equally bump defence and non-defence spending, while Republicans want a much larger increase in defence spending.

Even if the two sides can agree on the funding issue, there will be several items for Congress to iron out moving forward.

The legislation unveiled Monday does not including funding for disaster relief, despite a request for more than $US80 billion from the White House to address hurricane relief in Texas, Puerto Rico, and elsewhere. It also does not increase the debt ceiling, which the government is expected to reach early next month.

Most prominently, perhaps, the legislation does not address immigration, the paramount fight in the Senate at the moment. Senate Democrats agreed to end the latest shutdown after GOP leadership promised to negotiate on the codification of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration program.

As of Tuesday, there was little outward progress toward a DACA deal, as the White House had shot down a proposed bipartisan solution from Sens. John McCain and Chris Coons.

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