House Republicans begin the second session of the 115th Congress on Monday facing fast-approaching deadlines for critical legislation left unfinished last year, even as they try to move to new 2018 priorities like welfare reform and infrastructure.
To help get them there, House and Senate Republicans, who are in the majority, held a planning session on the GOP’s 2018 agenda with President Trump at Camp David beginning Friday. Discussions focused on immigration reform, an infrastructure bill, and welfare reform.
But lawmakers must first tackle a backlog of 2017 legislation they left incomplete.
Republicans and Democrats in both chambers will try to finalize an agreement to fund the federal government for the rest of fiscal 2018, a task they must finish by Jan. 19, when the latest stopgap measure expires.
At the same time, the two parties are separately negotiating a bill to legalize so-called Dreamers, who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children, in exchange for border security and other immigration reform provisions.
Republicans said they hope a framework for an immigration deal will be ready as soon as next week. The GOP negotiators on Tuesday will meet with Democrats to go over the list of White House-backed priorities, which include money for a border wall and changes to chain migration and the visa lottery system.
Democrats have pushed to link the spending and immigration measures, arguing that hundreds of Dreamers lose legal status every week. But the immigration measure is likely to require work beyond the Jan. 19th spending deadline, and Republicans are eager to pass an immigration reform as a standalone measure.
Democrats on Friday balked at the White House demands, in particular Trump’s request for major border wall funding and other immigration enforcement provisions.
Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., threatened that the request would lead Democrats to block the government funding bill if Republicans try to include a major amount of wall money in the spending legislation.
Republicans told the Washington Examiner last week the immigration measure would include authorization for border wall funding of at least $1.6 billion, which was President Trump’s fiscal 2018 request. That money would then have to be appropriated in future spending bills or raised through other federal fees.
Neither chamber is likely to be ready to take up the fiscal 2018 spending legislation next week.
The two parties are at odds over how to lift federal spending caps. Republicans want more money for defense, but Democrats are demanding an equal increase for domestic budgets.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he wants to reach a two-year deal with Democrats on lifting the spending caps. Republicans and Democrats are trying to wrap into the spending bill a five-year reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and Democrats are demanding stabilization money for Obamacare.
Also next week, the House is planning a vote next week on a bill to reauthorize a major anti-terrorism surveillance tool, which expires on the 19th. The House bill makes reforms to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, which allows intelligence officials to spy on communications of non-citizens outside of the U.S.
If the House is able to pass the bill, it could still face hurdles in the Senate, where lawmakers in both parties have their own list of reforms they would like to make to the program.
The House will also vote on a resolution backing Iranian protesters, who took to the streets beginning last week in protest of the governing regime.
The resolution, authored by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., supports “the rights of the people of Iran to free expression. It condemns the Iranian regime “for its crackdown on legitimate protests,” and calls on social media companies to reject requests from the government to cut off the their communications.