By Bloomberg
December 20, 2018

The House is set to vote as early as Thursday on a stopgap measure temporarily extending government funding and averting a partial shutdown following Senate passage of the legislation, which defers a fight with President Donald Trump over money for his proposed border wall.

House leaders from both parties have signaled support for the legislation, which continues funding for Homeland Security, Treasury, and several other departments until February 8. It passed the Senate Wednesday night on a voice vote.

Passage in the House would send the legislation to the White House. Trump hasn’t said whether he’ll sign the bill, but administration officials have signaled support for deferring the battle over the wall until the new year and avoiding a government shutdown over the Christmas holiday.

The president said last week he would be “proud” to shut the government if it would force Democrats to provide the wall money, but the White House has since appeared to backtrack. White House senior aide Kellyanne Conway told reporters Wednesday that Trump could be open to the stopgap spending bill.

Trump, who came under heavy fire from conservatives Wednesday evening for the stopgap measure, threatened in a Thursday morning tweet to block any infrastructure legislation next year passed by the Democratic House unless it funded a border wall.

“There is no way this gets any better next year,” said House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows. “Now is the time to fight.”

Democrats would be in control of the House when the temporary funding expired, giving Trump less leverage in his demand for $5 billion in wall funding. Dealing with the funding expiration could interrupt Democrats’ plans to take up their legislative priorities and might lead to a high-profile confrontation between Trump and Nancy Pelosi of California, who is likely to be elected speaker.

‘Political Spite’

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, speaking on the Senate floor, accused Democrats of acting out of “political spite” and being inflexible over border wall spending even as the White House was signaling some willingness to compromise.

A group of conservative Republicans in the House urged Trump to hold firm on his demand for the wall and reject the stopgap measure.

“Mr. President, we’re going to back you up. If you veto this bill we’ll be there,” Meadows said in a statement. “Let’s build the wall and make sure that we do our job in Congress.”

The Senate’s short-term spending bill, H.R. 695, would also temporarily extend several programs otherwise scheduled to expire, including the national flood insurance program and EB-5 investor visas.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican, said Tuesday night he began work on the stopgap bill after concluding that a long-term resolution probably wouldn’t be found before Friday night.

A partial shutdown would hit agencies including the Securities and Exchange Commission and the departments of Homeland Security, Treasury, Justice and Interior. More than 420,000 federal employees would work without pay and more than 380,000 workers would be sent home.

The remaining six departments that are unaffected—including the Defense Department—represent about three-quarters of discretionary spending and are funded through Sept. 30 under legislation passed and signed by Trump earlier this year.

Democratic leaders this month offered Trump $1.3 billion for border fencing after backing $1.6 billion earlier this year. McConnell on Tuesday proposed to Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer a plan that would provide $1.6 billion for border security in addition to $1 billion for Trump’s immigration priorities.

Schumer rejected it. The immigration funding couldn’t be used for a wall, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The Trump administration says it’s looking into whether it could use funds from various agencies to finance a wall, though Democrats say it cannot do that without permission from Congress.

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