House passes stopgap spending bill, Senate fate uncertain

PHOTO: Exterior view of the US Capitol building, Washington DC, Jan. 18, 2017.PlayMark Reinstein/Corbis via Getty Images
WATCH Dreamers' fates loom as lawmakers fight over immigration

The House a cleared a must-pass bill Thursday night to fund the government through Feb. 16, sending the measure to the Senate as lawmakers scramble to avoid a government shutdown amid a fight over the fate of young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers.

The measure passed by a 230-197 vote, with a handful of Republicans joining Democrats in voting against the measure.

Conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus largely backed the measure, after spending much of the day in negotiations with the White House and GOP leaders over concerns about military funding levels and the larger debate between the White House and Capitol Hill over immigration reform.

The package would fund the government through mid-February, and also includes a measure to renew funds for a program, known as CHIP, providing low-income children with health insurance for six years.

Democrats largely opposed the measure over the amount of funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the lack of progress on protecting roughly 700,000 Dreamers from deportation in March.

In the Senate, Democrats have pledged to oppose the bill unless it includes protections for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Last-minute negotiations were disrupted Thursday by an early morning tweet from President Trump that appeared to undermine the GOP strategy to include CHIP funding to attract Democratic votes.

Trump later spoke with House Speaker Paul Ryan, and the White House and top GOP leaders said the president did in fact support Republicans’ short-term spending package.

The measure now moves to the Senate, where the math still appears to be a challenge for Republicans, who would need Democratic votes to clear the 60-vote threshold needed to pass it.

Senators sparred on the floor Thursday evening, but didn't get anywhere.

Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, N.Y., suggested that the Senate pass a four- or five-day clean continuing resolution in order to continue debate on DACA, which would require getting a better sense of what the president wants out of a deal.

“Maybe the Majority Leader -- we're trying to help you, Mitch -- can pin down exactly what President Trump wants,” Schumer said, looking at his Republican counterpart, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Ky.

McConnell accused his Democratic colleagues of holding up government funding in order to force a deal on DACA, which he insisted has no urgency until March.

“The reason we're here right now is our friends on the other side of the aisle say, 'Solve this illegal immigration problem right now or we're going to shut the government down,'” he said.

Debate in the Senate was expected to pick back up at 11 a.m. on Friday.

A shutdown would begin just after Friday's midnight deadline -- Saturday being the one-year anniversary of Trump’s inauguration.

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