As Shutdown Deadline Nears, Dems Spurn Funding Bill

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., speaks to reporters on , Dec. 12, 2017, about the GOP tax bill following the Democratic Caucus weekly policy meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (CN) – Even as Republican leadership remains confident Congress can pass a temporary funding bill that that will avert a government shutdown by the Friday deadline, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Wednesday that Democrats are broadly opposed to the new proposal.

Opposition to the temporary-spending package among Schumer’s caucus is “broad and strong,” the New York Democrat said. He added that the temporary proposal falls short on issues such as confronting the opioid epidemic or providing funding for community health centers.

The government will shut down if Congress is unable to pass a funding measure by Friday, but Democrats are confident Republicans will bear the wrath of voters if that happens.

“We want to do everything we can to avoid a shutdown, but we Democrats believe if there is one it will fall on the Republicans’ backs, plain and simple,” Schumer told reporters Wednesday.

One provision of the short-term funding package released Tuesday by Republicans in the House of Representatives offers a six-year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program whose funding expired in September.

In addition to funding the government through Feb. 16, a summary from the House Appropriations Committee says the bill would eliminate a handful of health care taxes and fund a missile-defense system.

The bill is silent, however, on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a federal program that offered employment rights and other protections to qualifying immigrants who would otherwise be at risk of deportation.

These protections are set to expire in March following President Donald Trump’s rescission of DACA in September.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., on Wednesday told reporters he would like any temporary spending bill to include an immigration compromise that a bipartisan group of senators is expected to unveil this afternoon.

“Now that we have met this challenge with the only game in town, with the only bill that is bipartisan and addresses these key elements, it is time for them to include it in any CR deal that is brought before us at this time,” Durbin told reporters, referring to the short-term funding bill by its initials.

Politico says the proposal would provide a path to citizenship for people in the country illegally who came here before June 15, 2012, in exchange for increased border security funding and changes to the diversity visa lottery.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, told reporters he met with Durbin, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer on Wednesday, and that the group plans to meet again on Thursday to hammer out details of the immigration proposal. Cornyn tweeted on Wednesday that the proposal Durbin outlined would not receive a vote in the Senate because Trump would not sign it, but later told reporters it is still possible to reach a deal that satisfies each negotiator’s interests.

“None of these are easy, but we are all highly motivated by the fact that come March the 5th this program will no longer be available and all of the work permits that currently exist for the 690,000 DACA recipients will go away,” Cornyn said. “And so we’re all committed to getting to yes, and we’re going to keep working hard until we get there.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he is hesitant to bring a bill to the floor of the Senate if he is not sure Trump will sign it.

“I’m looking for something that President Trump supports and he’s not yet indicated what measure he’s willing to sign,” McConnell told reporters Wednesday. “As soon as we figure out what he is for, then I would be convinced that we were not just spinning our wheels going to this issue on the floor but actually dealing with a bill that has a chance to become law and therefore solve the problem.”

Despite opposition to the short-term spending bill from both Democrats and conservative members of the House, McConnell was confident the proposal will pass and promised to take up the spending bill before the deadline at the end of the week.

“They claim they don’t want to shut down the government, so it seems to me it would be a rather attractive package,” McConnell said. “I certainly hope that’s the way they look at it.”

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