- The federal government will shut down Friday unless a spending bill is passed.
- The deal should be reached after the budget agreement in February set the spending caps for the government.
- Potential additions, dealing with everything from immigration to Obamacare, could pose complications.
For the third time in as many months, the federal government is facing a fast-approaching government shutdown and racing to complete the deal to avoid a lapse in funds.
The possibility of a government shutdown appears less likely than the last two times Congress has gone through this process, but aides and analysts say nothing is guaranteed. The deadline to pass a spending bill and avoid a shutdown is the end of the day Friday.
Congress is likely to avert a shutdown because of the February deal reached by the two parties’ leaderships, which increased the federal budget caps. The agreement set the levels of how much the government can spend over the next two years – the current discussions revolve around how exactly that $US1.3 trillion will be divided up.
Chris Krueger, strategist at Cowen Washington Research Group, said the broad deal reached in February will help smooth out the process this time around.
“There could be another Rand Paul-type shutdown of a few hours, but this ship sailed once the gigantic sequester relief bill passed last month,” Kreuger said in a note to clients Monday. “The pie has been baked, they are just quibbling over the scraps.”
But there could be some bumps along the way. As part of the shutdown negotiations, both sides are attempting to add various policy goals – on everything from the tax code to healthcare.
Riders could trip up the bill
One of the biggest sticking points appears to be efforts to attach provisions that would shore up the marketplaces of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. The changes, which have the support of many Democrats and some Senate Republicans, would allocate funds to mitigate losses for insurers in the market in hopes of keeping down premium costs.
Conservatives, on the other hand, believe the move would be a bailout for insurance companies. Many Republicans also want to include language in the budget deal that would prevent these funds from going to groups that provide abortion services, like Planned Parenthood, which would risk losing the support of Democrats.
Also, Politico reported that the White House and Democrats have attempted to work toward an immigration agreement that would trade funding for the president’s proposed wall along the Mexican border for a codification of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration program that protects from deportation nearly 700,000 unauthorised immigrants that came to the US as minors.
The talks about the proposal broke down as the two sides remain at an impasse on a pathway to citizenship for the DACA recipients, according to the report.
The add-ons have also split parties amongst themselves.
For instance, GOP Rep. Mark Meadows – the head of the hardline conservative House Freedom Caucus – called for the spending bill to strip funding from sanctuary cities that do not cooperate with federal immigration enforcement laws.
Other Republicans were quick to dismiss the idea, since it would cause a major political fight with Democrats that could risk the danger of a shutdown.
“I think that that’s – I don’t think that’s gonna happen in the Senate,” GOP Sen. John Boozman told Business Insider. “I mean that’s – Congressman Meadows might feel like that’s a good idea but practically speaking, that would be very difficult to actually get done.”
Sen. Roy Blunt, the vice chair of the Republican conference, told Business Insider last week that the decisions were being made by leaders.
“Everybody kind of has everything they like attached to it,” Blunt said. “That’s gonna be decided in a room that I’m not in.”
At the same time, Blunt did not expect too many additions to the spending bill.
“Nothing’s done until it’s done, but I think we’ll not have very many riders on this bill,” he said.
Despite the fast-approaching deadlines and various policy arguments, the bill is expected to make it through both chambers before the deadline at the end of the week.
“Given the considerable work done to date, and the scheduled recess at the end of the week, we believe the odds of a government shutdown are only 25%,” Isaac Boltansky, a policy analysts at Compass Point Research and Trading, wrote in a note to clients on Monday.
The giant bill is expected be released late Monday with a vote coming from the House on Wednesday and the Senate soon after.