US House of Representatives passes two-week stopgap Bill to keep government funded


WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) - The US House of Representatives approved on Thursday (Dec 7) a two-week stopgap measure to avoid a government shutdown this weekend, pushing until just before Christmas a broader possible showdown over spending priorities, immigration and health care.

The measure, which would fund the government through Dec 22, still needs to be approved by the Senate and signed by President Donald Trump.

The House vote came as congressional leaders from both parties met with Trump at the White House to talk about the thicket of issues facing lawmakers as the end of the year approaches.

In the coming days, Democrats plan to press to shield from deportation unauthorised immigrants brought to the country as children. And Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, has pledged to support passage of bipartisan legislation to stabilise health insurance markets under the Affordable Care Act.

Democratic leaders pulled out of a planned White House meeting last week after Trump fired off a Twitter post attacking them and saying that he did not foresee a deal. But in brief remarks from the Oval Office before Thursday's meeting started, Trump and the Democratic leaders struck a hopeful tone.

"We're here in the spirit of 'let's get it done'," said Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader.

Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader, said she was eager to address the issues of health insurance for children, combating opioids and helping veterans. "All things that have bipartisan support in the Congress," Pelosi added.

Government funding is set to expire at the end of Friday, and the stopgap measure would provide more time for negotiations between Republicans and Democrats on overall spending levels for the 2018 fiscal year.

After a deal is reached, the two parties can negotiate a long-term spending package.

"The reality is that we're running into a deadline this week, and this resolution is our best and only option at this time," said Republican Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

A government shutdown this weekend would be a potential disaster for Republicans as they race forward with their sweeping tax overhaul, which they hope to complete by Christmas.

"This Bill kicks the can down the road for two weeks just so Republicans can continue focusing on the greatest tax scam in history," said Democratic Representative Barbara Lee.

Given the calendar and the amount of time needed to finalise a broad spending package, another stopgap spending measure will be needed just before Christmas.

Democrats made clear their unhappiness.

"I'd really like to know what you expect to accomplish in the next two weeks when we haven't been able to accomplish anything in the last two months," said Representative Nita M. Lowey of New York, the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee.