WASHINGTON • The United States Congress has approved a two-week stopgap measure that will avoid a government shutdown this weekend, pushing until just before Christmas a broader possible showdown over spending priorities, immigration and healthcare.
The measure, which the House and Senate passed in quick succession, would fund the government through Dec 22. President Donald Trump is expected to sign it.
"Along with enacting historic tax reform, we'll be working together in the next two weeks to find a long-term solution to our funding needs while maintaining fiscal discipline," said Speaker Paul Ryan.
Republicans mainly want a big increase in defence spending for the fiscal year ending Sept 30, 2018. But Democrats are insisting that any added Pentagon funding be accompanied by increases to other domestic programmes.
The approval came as congressional leaders from both parties met with Mr Trump at the White House to talk about the thicket of issues facing lawmakers as the end of the year approaches.
In negotiations this month, Democrats plan to press to shield from deportation undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children. Republicans want a much wider series of immigration law changes to further clamp down on foreign arrivals, and they want immigration negotiations to be held on a separate track from the government funding Bill.
We're all here as a very friendly, well-unified group. We hope that we're going to make some great progress for our country. I think that will happen.
U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP
We're here in the spirit of 'let's get it done'.
SENATE DEMOCRATIC LEADER CHUCK SCHUMER
Democrats also want to shore up the Affordable Care Act, known as "Obamacare", by reviving federal subsidies for low-income people in the programme.
Lawmakers also want to provide tens of billions of dollars in response to this year's hurricanes and wildfires, and they need to provide funds for the Children's Health Insurance Programme, whose financing lapsed at the end of September. All these issues loom as Republicans move ahead with their effort to pass an ambitious rewrite of the tax code.
The meeting at the White House on Thursday was successful in one basic sense: Congressional leaders from both parties participated. Democratic leaders pulled out of a meeting with Mr Trump last week after he fired off a Twitter post attacking them and saying he did not foresee reaching a deal.
This time, in brief remarks from the Oval Office, Mr Trump and the Democratic leaders struck a hopeful tone.
"We're all here as a very friendly, well-unified group," Mr Trump said. "We hope that we're going to make some great progress for our country. I think that will happen," Mr Trump added.
"We're here in the spirit of 'let's get it done'," said Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer.
Government funding was due to expire yesterday, and the stopgap measure would provide more time for negotiations between Republicans and Democrats on overall spending levels for the 2018 fiscal year. The White House said negotiations would resume yesterday.
Republicans have majorities in both chambers of Congress, but they cannot pass spending Bills alone. In the Senate, a 60-vote supermajority is required to pass most major legislation, and Republicans control 52 seats. That means negotiating with Democrats, who want to push their own priorities.
Both sides want to avoid having parts of the government close, particularly during the holidays, for fear of a public backlash, and leaders from both parties have pre-emptively blamed the other for such a potential outcome. That political blame game is likely to continue in the next two weeks while the leaders hammer out a compromise.