Government Shutdown Odds Hit 25% As GOP Unveils $1.2 Trillion Spending Bill

After passing its fifth continuing resolution since inauguration day early last month, Democratic and Republican lawmakers promised that this would be the last time - and that, when it came time to approve the next spending bill in late March, leaders had agreed to push for an omnibus package that would cover federal spending through the end of the fiscal year in September.

Of course, rumblings about an omnibus bill had proceeded the last few short-term deals. But it appears that, this time, lawmakers are taking their promises seriously. To wit, Bloomberg reported that a $1.2 trillion omnibus spending bill would be presented at a Republican conference meeting set for 5:45 pm ET on Monday, according to a Republican aide.

To be sure, the aide cautioned that the release time could be delayed until tomorrow due to last-minute haggling - but anybody who has been paying attention to the Trump administration's legislative trials and travails would've assumed that, anyway.

Negotiations over the bill have been fraught with disagreements, and several key issues remain unresolved. While both Republicans and Democrats want to avoid another shutdown, one Congressional aide told Bloomberg that, as of today, there's a 25% chance a shutdown will happen at midnight Friday.

Last week, Bloomberg reported that haggling over the omnibus bill had hit an impasse, meaning that final votes would likely be hastily held late Friday, March 23 - meaning the push to avert what would be the second Trump era federal government shutdown might go right down to the wire. That's a marked contrast with the negotiations for the fifth continuing resolution, which saw a bill passed with ample time to spare.

According to BBG, Trump’s demand for border-wall funding is among the disputes that have held up negotiations. The White House has floated the idea of a deal on immigration, short-term protection from deportation for young immigrants in exchange for money to begin building the southern border wall, according to people familiar with the discussions.


Though once again, Republicans leaders balked at including an immigration compromise in the spending bill, essentially arguing that the bill would be difficult enough to pass without yet another controversial provision.

"We have a lot of urgent things to do like keep the government up and running so I wouldn’t think we need to complicate it unnecessarily," John Cornyn, the second-ranking Senate Republican said.

Trump has also demanded that the bill revoke federal funding for "sanctuary cities," while some lawmakers have pushed for other measures, like folding in the bipatisan bill to strengthen federal background checks for gun buys and a federal appropriation to build a new tunnel between New York City and New Jersey.

Trump this week also demanded that the bill stop federal funds for “sanctuary cities” that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration enforcers. John Culberson, a Texas Republican and the lead House negotiator on the issue, said the language isn’t necessary because the Justice Department already has the authority to stop law enforcement grants to those cities.

Some lawmakers are discussing adding modest bipartisan proposals to the measure that are in response to last month’s shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school that left 17 people dead. Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, said the proposals include improving reporting to a federal gun background check system, authorizing school-safety grants and alerting law enforcement when someone who is prohibited from buying a firearm attempts to do so.

House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey told reporters, "We’re working hard" to agree on a spending measure.

Frelinghuysen is at odds with Trump over $900 million in the bill to start building the Gateway tunnel between the lawmaker’s home state of New Jersey and New York. Trump is trying to kill federal funding for the project, contending the two states must pay more.

Furthermore, restoring cost-sharing ACA subsidies that were cancelled by Trump last fall and banning subsidies for insurers that cover abortion are two of the issues being debated by Republicans and Democrats, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Democrats and Republicans have fought over whether to restore subsidies aimed at shoring up the Affordable Care Act and bar subsidies for insurers who cover abortion services.

Deficit hawks (ie Rand Paul) have criticized what would be a boost to federal funding beyond limits established by Congress.

Conservatives, including Mr. Paul, have balked at the bill’s boost in funding above limits that Congress established in 2011 to try to rein in federal spending. The budget deal passed in February lifted overall spending levels above those limits for both military and domestic spending by almost $300 billion over two years, in addition to nearly $90 billion in disaster aid for states and territories hit by last year’s destructive storms and $140 billion in emergency military funds.

After months of negotiations, Democrats and Republicans still haven't been able to reach an immigration deal - though some of the time pressure was relieved when a federal judge ruled that the protections must remain in place until several lawsuits are resolved. 

A Democratic gambit whereby Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi agreed to end a government shutdown in January after receiving assurances that Senate leader Mitch McConnell would initiate an open-ended debate on an immigration bill has been an abysmal failure. Two months later, no agreement has been reached.

If it passes, the bill would cover nearly one-third of the fiscal year, and set the stage for the president to pass a full-year budget for the 2018-2019 fiscal year, which begins in October.