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The House is scheduled to vote late Tuesday on Republicans’ proposed stopgap spending bill to keep the government open until March 23 and provide full-year funding for the Defense Department.
The House legislation, introduced on Monday night, would avoid a shutdown after current funding ends Friday. It would extend most government funding at current levels until March 23 but would lift budget caps to provide $659 billion for the Pentagon through the end of the fiscal year on Sept 30.
The House is scheduled to vote on the measure Tuesday evening, according to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s schedule.
The legislation also would authorize the Energy Department to make sales from the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve, extend financing for Community Health Care Centers for two years and make modifications to Medicare, such as repealing a payment cap for therapy services. The bill doesn’t contain a hurricane disaster relief package that has already passed the House and is stalled in the Senate.
The measure wouldn’t lift the U.S. debt ceiling even though the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicts the Treasury can prevent a default only through early March. The Treasury Department has urged Congress to increase the debt limit this month. A measure to increase or suspend the debt ceiling could be added to other legislation before the end of the month.
Republican Representative Bill Huizenga of Michigan said adding defense funding to the spending bill is the only way to get support from 218 Republicans to pass the House without Democratic support.
But several Republicans said they weren’t optimistic the extra defense spending could get through the Senate. That means the House would likely have to vote again on Wednesday or Thursday with the Pentagon money stripped out. If the House rejects that, the government would edge closer to a shutdown after midnight Thursday.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” Huizenga said.
Democrats say they want to keep defense and non-defense spending linked together for the full year in an effort to ensure equal increases. Republicans control the Senate 51-49, and spending bills need 60 votes to advance.
Lawmakers weren’t eager for another shutdown.
The short-term bill is the fifth stopgap since fiscal 2018 began on Oct. 1, because Republicans and Democrats have been unable to agree on a longer-term spending plan. Republican and Democratic lawmakers have been negotiating on a broader budget bill that would raise budget caps set as part of a 2011 law.
Passing the short-term spending will likely be easier this time around after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell succeeded in sidelining the contentious issue of immigration.
Democrats’ effort to add deportation protections for about 700,000 young undocumented immigrants to the last spending bill led to a three-day government shutdown. McConnell has said he will allow the Senate to debate an immigration bill on its own after Friday if the government remains open.
The move to add the defense funding responds to demands by House GOP conservatives including members of the Freedom Caucus, whose chairman Mark Meadows said, "That will have an easy time getting my vote."
“Knowing my members the way I do, I think we’re in good shape to be able to pass it with Republican-only votes,” Meadows said.
After a House vote, the Senate could strip out the defense portion and send it back to the House. If the Senate takes out defense, “that’s their choice” and if they do so “we’ll have to deal with it on Wednesday or Thursday if the bill comes back,” Meadows said.
House Democrats plan to begin an annual retreat in Cambridge, Maryland, on Wednesday afternoon.