WASHINGTON (AP) — With a shutdown clock ticking toward a Friday midnight deadline, congressional Republicans scrambled on Wednesday to finalize a must-pass spending bill. A major obstacle evaporated after key GOP senators dropped a demand to add health insurance subsidies for the poor.
The No. 2 House Republican, California Rep. Kevin McCarthy, said party leaders have scrapped plans to combine a short-term spending bill with $81 billion worth of disaster aid and a $658 billion Pentagon funding measure. Instead, Republicans are likely to schedule a separate vote on the disaster package, he said.
The strategy for averting a government shutdown appeared to be coming into focus, though it looks like many items on Capitol Hill's list of unfinished business could be pushed into next year. It also appears the upcoming short-term measure will fund the government through mid-January, giving lawmakers time to work out their leftover business.
"I think if this all comes together we can vote and leave," McCarthy said in anticipation of a House vote on Thursday.
Hopes for a bipartisan budget deal to sharply increase spending for both the Pentagon and domestic agencies appeared dead for the year and Democrats were rebuffed in their demands for protections for young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, announced Wednesday that they would not seek to add the insurance subsidies, which are designed to stabilize the Affordable Care Act's markets. The tax bill repeals requirement that individuals purchase insurance.
Trying to combine the health measure with the spending bill was a demand of Collins when President Donald Trump and Senate GOP leaders secured her vote for the party's tax cut measure. But House conservatives strongly opposed the move.