Congress Pushes Off Government Shutdown Fight Until December 22

President Donald Trump speaks before a meeting with congressional leaders including Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y., Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, in the Oval Office of the White House, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Alex Brandon/AP

With government funding set to expire on Friday, the House of Representatives voted late Thursday afternoon to pass a two-week “continuing resolution” to keep the lights on until December 22. Nearly every single Democrat voted against the bill and nearly every Republican voted for it.

About an hour later, the Senate followed suit.

The short-term deal leaves a host of issues unresolved, including funding for the entire federal government for next year, the status of roughly 800,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, and the long-term fate of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which expired in October.

The far-right flank of Republicans in the House had threatened earlier this week to vote against the stopgap funding bill, voicing fear they would lose leverage in shaping the long-term spending bill—which must be hammered out just before Christmas.

“We’re trying to make sure we don’t get a terrible spending bill with high numbers so the headlines don’t read: ‘Largest spending Congress in history under a Republican administration,” Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), the leader of the Freedom Caucus, explained to reporters before the vote. “There are a number of people who have real concerns about voting for a short-term CR if we’re not getting anything really different from what we got in the last six years.”

At the same time, Meadows acknowledged, many of his GOP colleagues felt that it’s worth it to let go of some of their demands for slashing government funding in order to focus on getting their massive tax overhaul—including deep cuts to corporate taxes—over the finish line.

“There’s a voice within our caucus saying tax reform must be our highest priority,” he said. “Some are willing to give leadership a little more flexibility in exchange for a quicker timetable on tax reform.”

Earlier this week, in anticipation that even the short-term deal could fall through, President Trump took to social media to preemptively blame a government shutdown on Democrats.

But many rank-and-file Republicans readily admitted leading up to the vote that their party, which currently controls every branch of government, would be the one to shoulder the responsibility.

“Nobody wants a government shutdown, and I don’t care what they say, there’s no way we can blame the Democrats,” Rep. Peter King (R-NY) told TPM. “We control the House, the Senate, the White House, governorships, everything. If we can’t keep the government open, it’s our fault.”

King also pointed to the importance of the tax bill negotiations in rallying Republicans to back a spending bill that may not have been exactly to their liking.

“The tax bill is supposed to be the crowning achievement for Republicans,” he said. “This is it for the whole year. This is the top of the mountain. But here we are arguing about a shutdown. Talk about stepping on your own story!”