Why the Spending Bill Matters


Why the Spending Bill Matters

Blog Post

By No Labels
12/21/2017

Why the Spending Bill Matters

Congress faces another deadline Friday to pass a spending bill or cause a government shutdown, and the outcome could have a major impact on issues from immigration to children’s health insurance.

Negotiations over spending bills get complicated. Lawmakers often use “must pass” legislation like this to address their pet policy priorities. Add that to the usual politics that surround government spending and it becomes a challenge.

Now that the tax bill has passed, lawmakers will turn their attention to averting a shutdown. Here’s what you need to know.

Democrats and Republicans want immigration addressed

Many Democrats have said they will not support a spending bill unless legal protections for young, undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers are addressed. However, Republicans will want to address border security at the same time. A bipartisan group of senators is working with the White House to hammer out a deal, but the negotiations are expected to spill into January, so it’s unclear if this could be included in the spending legislation.

The Children’s Health Insurance Program needs money

The Children’s Health Insurance Program, which insures almost 9 million children nationwide, has bipartisan support in Congress. But the program’s funding lapsed in September and there is a risk that children will go uninsured next year if funding is not authorized. Some states have already told CHIP families to find alternate insurance. While there is no major opposition to CHIP in Congress, lawmakers do disagree over how to pay for it. Still, congressional leaders want to see the program funded, so a solution as part of the spending bill is likely.

The Affordable Care Act is in the Mix

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has pledged to pass legislation to stabilize the Affordable Care Act insurance markets, but this faces Republican opposition in the House. Any health care legislation would likely be modeled on the Alexander-Murray bill, a bipartisan initiative to fund a key insurance subsidy program and give the states more flexibility in how they deal with ACA mandates. How these issues get resolved in the spending bill is still unclear.

Disaster funding is likely to come up

With the country still recovering from massive hurricane and wildfire damage, disaster funding will almost certainly be part of the mix for the government spending bill. The National Flood Insurance Program, which had its funding extended in the last two stopgap spending measures, could be addressed. So might an $81 billion relief package that has bipartisan support in the House, but may require adjustment to pass in the Senate, Bloomberg reports.

Another delay is likely

If lawmakers don’t reach a budget deal by Friday, the government will shut down, which would cost roughly $1 billion a day and could hurt both parties in next year’s election. The way out of that predicament is to pass a short-term funding bill until January.
House Republicans introduced a bill that would extend funding at current levels to Jan. 19, with military spending increased and extended to Sept. 30. That bill is likely a non-starter in the Senate, where Democrats are unlikely to support an increase in military spending without also increasing spending on other domestic discretionary programs like education and research. Spending bills may be moving back and forth between the House and the Senate this week, Bloomberg reports.

McConnell told Fox News Tuesday that a shutdown will not happen. “We’ll work it out,” he said. “We always do.”

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