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Republicans and Democrats are close to striking a two-year budget deal that would break the impasse that caused last month’s government shutdown and prevent another one from happening this week.
Lawmakers have until Thursday night to pass a spending plan or federal agencies will close. As Congress debates how to handle hundreds of billions in spending, immigration policy, the debt ceiling and other crucial matters, here’s what you need to know about the pending deal.
A two-year budget plan would eliminate the need for “continuing resolutions” or “CRs” that provide temporary funding for government agencies when Congress fails to approve an annual budget. Unable to agree on spending priorities, lawmakers have already passed four CRs since October, and these make life difficult for federal agencies. While better than a shutdown, piecemeal funding makes it tough to hire, sign contracts and plan for the future.
Lawmakers may need to pass one more CR to cope with Thursday’s deadline (the House passed one last week). But if they can agree on budget numbers for defense and domestic spending thereafter, the resulting deal would end piecemeal spending for now.
Immigration reform has been tied to the budget bill debates in recent months because those bills are considered “must pass” legislation and lawmakers sought to harness the momentum. But the current budget deal appears to leave out immigration language. As Politico reported, “there is little hope of a deal on immigration this week.”
That means immigration legislation would have to pass on its own later on. This may be a blow to immigration reformers, because it eliminates the sense of urgency that lawmakers often need to act. It is also an election year, meaning the appetite for controversial legislation may be lower than usual.
The current compromise may also address other issues. For example, the “debt ceiling,” which is the federal government’s limitation on borrowing, will need to be raised in March and lawmakers may address that in the current bill. Disaster relief funding to help California, Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico may also be part of the package, as might funding for federal community health centers, which ran out last year.