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Congress Likely Heading for Shutdown   01/19 06:05

   A bitterly-divided Congress hurtled toward a government shutdown this 
weekend in a partisan stare-down over demands by Democrats for a solution on 
politically fraught legislation to protect about 700,000 younger immigrants 
from being deported.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- A bitterly-divided Congress hurtled toward a government 
shutdown this weekend in a partisan stare-down over demands by Democrats for a 
solution on politically fraught legislation to protect about 700,000 younger 
immigrants from being deported.

   Democrats in the Senate have served notice they will filibuster a four-week, 
government-wide funding bill that passed the House Thursday evening, seeking to 
shape a subsequent measure but exposing themselves to charges they are 
responsible for a looming shutdown.

   Republicans controlling the narrowly-divided chamber took up the fight, 
arguing that Democrats were holding the entire government hostage over demands 
to protect "Dreamer" immigrants brought to the country illegally as children.

   "Democratic senators' fixation on illegal immigration has already blocked us 
from making progress on long-term spending talks," said Senate Majority Leader 
Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. "That same fixation has them threatening to filibuster 
funding for the government."

   In the House, Republicans muscled the measure through on a mostly party-line 
230-197 vote after making modest concessions to chamber conservatives and 
defense hawks. House Speaker Paul Ryan immediately summoned reporters to try to 
pin the blame on top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York.

   A test vote on a filibuster of the measure by Senate Democrats appeared 
likely before the shutdown deadline of Friday at midnight. Schumer was rebuffed 
in an attempt to vote Thursday night.

   "We can't keep kicking the can down the road," said Schumer, insisting on 
more urgency in talks on immigration. "In another month, we'll be right back 
here, at this moment, with the same web of problems at our feet, in no better 
position to solve them."

   The measure would be the fourth stopgap spending bill since the current 
budget year started in October. A pile of unfinished Capitol Hill business has 
been on hold, first as Republicans ironed out last fall's tax bill and now as 
Democrats insist on progress on immigration. Talks on a budget deal to ease 
tight spending limits on both the Pentagon and domestic agencies are on hold, 
as is progress on a huge $80 billion-plus disaster aid bill.

   House GOP leaders sweetened the pending stopgap measure with legislation to 
extend for six years a popular health care program for children from low-income 
families and two-year delays in unpopular "Obamacare" taxes on medical devices 
and generous employer-provided health plans.

   A shutdown would be the first since 2013, when tea party Republicans --- in 
a strategy not unlike the one Schumer is employing now --- sought to use a 
must-pass funding bill to try to force then-President Barack into delaying 
implementation of his marquee health care law.

   Democrats want a deal to protect around 700,000 immigrants from deportation 
who arrived in the U.S. as children and have stayed here illegally. Trump has 
ended an Obama-era program providing those protections and given Congress until 
March to restore them, and he and Republicans want any immigration deal to 
include money for the president's promised wall along the Mexican border and 
other security measures.

   Congress must act by midnight Friday or the government will begin 
immediately locking its doors. Though the impact would initially be spotty --- 
since most agencies would be closed until Monday --- the story would be certain 
to dominate weekend news coverage, and each party would be gambling the public 
would blame the other.

   In the event of a shutdown, food inspections, federal law enforcement, 
airport security checks, and other vital services would continue, as would 
Social Security, other federal benefit programs and military operations. But 
federal workers wouldn't be paid.


(KA)

 
 
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