Congress next week faces another spending deadline and is poised to vote on the fifth short-term measure of the fiscal year to keep the government funded.
Republican leaders predicted this week that, unlike last month, Democrats will not vote to block the bill, which would trigger a partial government shutdown.
Democrats last month opposed a short-term spending deal, causing parts of the government to close for three days. But Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is betting that Democrats will not filibuster the spending bill this week because they realized the public blamed their party for last month’s shutdown.
Democrats voted against the bill because they wanted a provision included to protect so-called "Dreamers" who came to the United States illegally as children, and who could lose the protections they have under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
“One tool clearly has been eliminated,” McConnell said. “One of my favorite old Kentucky country sayings is, 'There’s no education in the second kick of a mule.' So I think there will be a new level of seriousness here in trying to resolve these issues.”
In the meantime, the House and Senate will continue negotiations on a yearlong spending deal as well as an accord on immigration that will protect Dreamers in exchange for border security and other immigration reforms.
But Republican leaders said even if a long-term agreement is reached, they must pass a temporary funding bill by Thursday. The short-term funding bill passed last month, the fourth of this fiscal year, expires on Feb. 8.
The two parties are close to a deal on raising federal spending caps for up to two years, lawmakers said last week. But it's not yet ready to pass.
“Once that number is reached, you need at least three weeks to write the document,” said Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., as he explained why another short-term deal is needed.
Republicans this week floated a spending deal to keep the government funded through March 22, GOP lawmakers told the Washington Examiner.
Neither the House Appropriations Committee nor Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., would confirm the new date, but Republicans told the Washington Examiner the time would allow the two parties to negotiate the larger deal on spending caps and to fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. It would also provide more time for the two parties to negotiate a deal on immigration.
Senate Republicans and Democrats working on an immigration bill said they could produce a plan as early as next week, but it could take weeks longer.
“Yes, it can” happen next week, Lankford, a negotiator, told the Washington Examiner. “I really do believe it can. I think there are a lot of people who are going to say there isn’t everything in here I like … but this is close enough.”
Next week’s deadline is complicated by the plans by House Democrats to hold their annual retreat on Maryland’s Eastern Shore from Feb. 7-9.
The shortened schedule means the House will have little time to consider many bills, but it has scheduled a vote on legislation authored by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., to ease Obama-era rules requiring restaurants to post nutrition information.