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House Racing Clock on Gov't Spending   12/11 06:19

   House leaders are racing the clock and bracing for inevitable blowback on an 
emerging government-wide spending bill that's likely to largely maintain 
President Donald Trump's tactical ability to fund his much-sought border wall.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- House leaders are racing the clock and bracing for 
inevitable blowback on an emerging government-wide spending bill that's likely 
to largely maintain President Donald Trump's tactical ability to fund his 
much-sought border wall.

   As is often the case, California rivals Nancy Pelosi and Kevin McCarthy are 
feuding, this time about a longshot McCarthy bid for a controversial dam 
project that would provide more water for Central Valley farmers. Progress has 
slowed, though a top-level meeting between House Speaker Pelosi, Treasury 
Secretary Steven Mnuchin and the frustrated chairs of the House and Senate 
Appropriations Committees on Tuesday generated pledges to redouble their 
efforts.

   Nobody wants a shutdown when a stopgap spending bill expires at the end of 
next week, but time is running out and it's not at all certain that 
negotiations can close in time for the Senate to process a year-end spending 
package. Another temporary funding bill, called a continuing resolution, or CR, 
could be needed to avert a repeat of last year's 35-day partial federal 
shutdown.

   At issue is almost $1.4 trillion for day-to-day operations of federal 
agencies. This year's annual appropriations cycle was supposed to be relatively 
easy after this summer's budget and debt deal reversed a sharp set of spending 
cuts that would have otherwise struck both the Pentagon and domestic agencies.

   But a Senate GOP move to more than triple a key border wall account to meet 
Trump's demands sparked a two-month stalemate. Negotiations are back on track, 
with most of Trump's $5 billion wall demand being returned to other domestic 
accounts.

   It's complicated, but Trump has a significant tactical advantage that allows 
him to obtain several billion dollars for his border project. That's because he 
will refuse to sign any bill that denies his wall request outright or curtails 
his powers to transfer money from Pentagon accounts to border construction. 
Another option is to keep the Homeland Security Department budget largely 
frozen in place under a continuing resolution while maintaining those same 
transfer authorities that Trump has used to shift almost $7 billion to wall 
accounts even as Congress directly appropriates far less --- $1.4 billion for 
the 2019 budget year.

   Nobody wants the third option: a government shutdown battle.

   The no-win spot that anti-wall forces find themselves in promises to 
generate unrest among some progressives, though they may be reluctant to give 
leaders much blowback during the height of impeachment.

   For their part, GOP conservatives usually just oppose the annual spending 
bills, which are then reluctantly signed by Trump after last-minute drama.

   House Democrats sought to block Trump's power to transfer Pentagon funding 
to Trump's project, but his veto threats are likely to succeed in getting 
Democrats to drop the language in the closed-door talks. Negotiators on a 
separate $738 billion Pentagon policy bill dumped companion language in their 
House-Senate talks.

   But funding through transferring money from other accounts is subject to 
legal challenges. A federal judge in Texas on Tuesday issued a nationwide 
injunction to block Trump from using $3.6 billion in military base construction 
funds to pay for border fencing and other barriers. 

   Democrats griped that Republicans were slow to make concessions on more than 
100 items that were in dispute, citing as an example House GOP Leader 
McCarthy's effort to insert a long-stalled dam project. Pelosi had successfully 
blocked the project for years even when her negotiating position was weaker 
when relegated to the minority. 

   Republicans countered that Democrats were slow to give up their pet 
priorities as well and that some of their demands should be deemed poison pills 
and dropped automatically.

   The delays have pushed back deadlines. House action on the spending package 
won't occur until next week, when impeachment and a major trade bill are also 
on the agenda. Leaders hope the Senate could follow and complete action by the 
end of next week, but any individual senator could mess up the plan under the 
Senate's rules.

   "We want to get the appropriations bills to the Senate as quickly as 
possible so the Senate has the opportunity to consider them. So that would be 
the priority," Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Tuesday.


(KR)

 
 
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