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Congress Does Bare Minimum to Keep Government Open Next Week

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Congress gave itself one more week to agree on a spending bill to fund the U.S. government through September, leading into President Donald Trump’s 100th day in office Saturday by keeping the lights on.

The 382-30 House vote Friday was followed quickly by unanimous Senate passage of the stopgap spending bill hours before the shutdown deadline. The measure goes to Trump for his signature. “We feel very good” that lawmakers will be able to pass a full spending bill next week, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters.

Leaders of both parties say they’re close to agreement on a broader spending plan after Republicans signaled they would accept Democratic demands that the Trump administration promise to continue paying Obamacare subsidies and drop its bid for immediate funds for a wall on the Mexican border.

“You shouldn’t create artificial deadlines,” Alabama Republican Gary Palmer said in support of the short-term measure. “If there are things we need to work through, we need to take the time to work through them.”

Senator Patrick Leahy, the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, said both sides have made progress on issues including more funds for the National Institutes of Health, opioid funding for states, Pell college grants and money for transit. But he said the talks remain snagged over Republican demands for policy “riders.”

“Let’s not govern by partisan manufactured crisis,” he said on the Senate floor. “Stop posturing,” he added as he called for a speedy resolution on the bill sometime next week.

“This is no way to govern,” Senator Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, said before the Senate vote.

Sixteen House Republicans voted against Friday’s stopgap measure. The short-term fix to ward off a government shutdown — on a deadline set months ago — shows the stubborn dysfunction of Congress even with a unified Republican government. House GOP leaders on Thursday abandoned efforts to vote this week on their plan to repeal and replace Obamacare for lack of support in their party. A vote is still possible next week.

Among the biggest achievements Trump has highlighted for his first 100 days are executive orders, signing bills to undo last-minute regulations from the Obama administration, and a Supreme Court justice confirmation that required changing Senate rules to push it through.

Congress will have just five days starting Monday to finance the government until the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. House leaders plan to release a bill on Monday after negotiations over the weekend, No. 2 House Democrat Steny Hoyer of Maryland said Friday.

Sticking Points

Republicans are seeking provisions that would block the Labor Department’s fiduciary rules governing investment advice to retirees, as well as provisions blocking National Labor Relations Board rules. The NLRB last August imposed liability for labor violations on franchisers for violations by franchisees. These are among the 70 provisions remaining in the bill that Democrats object to, and little progress has been achieved in the last day.

Democrats want restrictions on added border security funding to prevent Trump from using the money to deport undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. They also want to limit funding for immigration detention beds. Democrats are seeking at least $500 million in new funds to shore up Puerto Rico’s Medicaid program.

Even as lawmakers didn’t finish the larger spending bill, Republicans spent much of the week tinkering with their Obamacare plan, hoping to muster enough support to give Trump a legislative win in his first 100 days. GOP leadership met late into Thursday night and ultimately decided they still didn’t have enough support for a vote this week.

Hoyer said he was voting for the one-week spending bridge, H.J. Res 99, but wouldn’t support another one. A day earlier, he had said he would oppose even that measure if Republicans pushed ahead with their Obamacare revamp.

While Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy ruled out a Friday or Saturday health-care vote, he left open the possibility to try again next week, when the new shutdown deadline will be hanging over the House.

— Check out How Trump’s Tax Proposal Could Affect the Muni Bond Market on ThinkAdvisor.

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