House Republican leaders plan to head off the threat of another government shutdown with a short-term spending bill that would also fund defense spending at increased levels for the rest of the fiscal year. But the measure would not provide a fix for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. Nor would it increase border security or provide funding for a southern border wall. They are planning to hold a vote Tuesday evening the measure, which, if successful, would avert a shutdown this week, on Feb. 8, and would keep the government funded into March.

Leadership outlined the plan to GOP rank-and-file at a closed-door meeting Monday night on Capitol Hill. The bill would fund the government through March 23. This would mark the fifth short-term spending bill, known as a continuing resolution (CR), that Congress will have considered since last fall. 

In general, members seemed supportive coming out of the meeting – Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Florida, said there was “no opposition” and that Republicans have a “good shot.” The House Freedom Caucus, too, is on board with the defense spending. 

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-North Carolina, said, “the good news is we’re taking proactive steps to make sure that the government stays open and the vote tomorrow I think will be a fairly simple one for most of us to take and support.”

The big question is what happens if the Senate attempts to strip out the year of defense funding and sends the bill back to the House after members have left town. 

“Obviously we could come back if it meant keeping the government open,” Meadows said – but there would then be a question of whether there were enough votes to pass a continuing resolution without the defense spending.

Here’s what the proposed bill would do:

  • Fund the government through March 23;
  • fund a full year of defense spending at the levels laid out in the National Defense Authorization Act that passed the House and Senate in November;
  • fund community health centers for two years.

And here’s what it won’t do: 

  • Include an agreement on spending caps for defense and domestic spending for 2018 (a “caps” deal);
  • address the debt ceiling, which will need to be lifted some time in March;
  • include a solution for DACA recipients.

House leadership will whip the bill in the morning, and the Rules Committee will meet to give authorization to pass the bill on the same day. The House is expected to vote Tuesday evening. Members are not being advised to stay in town, including Democrats who are heading to Cambridge, Maryland for a retreat later this week.

Congress has until Thursday night to pass a new government spending bill or there will be a shutdown on Friday. Last month, the government shut down for three days after Democrats blocked a short-term spending bill offered by Republicans over the fact that Congress did not yet have a deal on immigration. Democrats relented in the end after they said Senate Majority Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, agreed that the Senate would vote on an immigration bill to protect people who came to the U.S. illegally as children, known as Dreamers, if no deal is reached on the issue in the two weeks that followed. Now that the two weeks are nearly up, there is still no agreement, and lawmakers still appear to be at as much of an impasse as before.

Democrats have tried to tie immigration to the federal budget negotiations and funding for the rest of the 2018 fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. Republicans, however, have wanted to deal with these items separately. It’s unclear if Democrats will employ their strategy from last month this week.

In addition to immigration talks, Congress is still working toward an agreement that would lift budget caps, set by a 2011 law, on the military and nondefense domestic programs, which cover the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Veterans Affairs, for example. Lawmakers have approved such a budget deal twice since 2013, with the first one having been partially negotiated by Paul Ryan, who was then the chairman of the House Budget Committee. Republicans are keen on boosting defense spending while Democrats want to ensure there is also a hefty increase to nondefense programs. Once a budget deal is reached, appropriators then would quickly work to craft a omnibus spending package that would last through at least September.

The chairman of the conservative Freedom Caucus in the House, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-North Carolina, has indicated his group isn’t eager to pass another CR, but he also said last week that he doesn’t predict another shutdown. If Democrats oppose the CR again, House Republicans would need the support of the Freedom Caucus to at least get the bill passed in the lower chamber.

As for immigration negotiations, conservatives like a bill proposed by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Virginia, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. It would fulfill much of what the White House has been asking for — it would end the visa lottery program, end “chain migration” and authorize construction for a border wall, among other things. 

The Trump administration sought to end the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program created by President Obama last fall, and tasked Congress with finding a legislative solution by March 5. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, however, has resumed accepting renewal applications for DACA recipients after a judge blocked the Trump administration from ending the program. The Department of Justice filed an appeal with the Supreme Court last month in the case and asked for the high court to take it up.

Meanwhile, Sens. John McCain and Chris Coons on Monday unveiled a bipartisan immigration measure that would protect so-called “Dreamers” from being deported, provide a path to citizenship and provide new border security measures without funding for a wall. The legislation is a companion to a bill introduced in the House by Reps. Will Hurd, R-Texas and Pete Aguilar, D-California, which has 54 co-sponsors — 27 Republicans and 27 Democrats. The McCain-Coons bill would “allow Congress to focus on other pressing matters, including a budget deal to fully fund the military,” their offices said.

GOP leaders only plan to bring an immigration bill to the floor that the White House supports, and President Trump seemed to pour cold water on the McCain-Coons plan Monday on Twitter, saying that any bill that excludes his proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border is a “total waste of time.”

Speaking to congressional Republicans at their annual retreat last week, Mr. Trump said that they will have to compromise with Democrats in order to strike a legislative deal on immigration or they will have to elect more Republicans in November.

“We’re going to have to compromise unless we elect more Republicans,” Mr. Trump said in remarks at the annual retreat for GOP lawmakers in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. “We have to be willing to give a little in order for our country to gain a whole lot.”

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