The latest Republican can-kicking on the federal budget expires in less than two weeks on December 8, and while another continuing resolution is almost certain, it's not a sure thing. Nothing in the Senate is certain at all, and there's still a pretty good chance Paul Ryan will lose control of the House GOP and shut the government down.
A short-term funding patch delaying the current Dec. 8 deadline at least a couple of weeks is inevitable, since top Hill leaders haven’t even agreed on spending numbers for federal agencies. The appropriations committees would need at least three to four weeks to write funding legislation.
Because it involves a must-pass bill, the spending fight gives House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) maximum leverage to demand a top priority for Democrats by year’s end: codifying Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals into law.
While not explicitly threatening to withhold votes without a DACA measure, both Pelosi and Schumer have vowed to save the Obama-era immigration program legislatively before lawmakers leave Washington for the year. Moderate Republicans have also urged their leadership to find a fix.
But doing so could prompt a rebellion among conservatives who don’t want to be steamrolled by Democrats on such a contentious issue. The White House is also insisting on funding for President Donald Trump's border wall with Mexico.
In addition to a huge omnibus spending package, Congress has another pricey funding measure to deal with — aid for hurricane-wrecked states and territories — that many on Capitol Hill say doesn’t go far enough.
The White House has suggested a $44 billion emergency measure distributed to Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands for ongoing hurricane relief, as well as money for combating wildfires in the West. Democrats and some powerful Republicans — including Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 GOP leader — have said the package is far too small, though they will have to contend with fiscal conservatives who are getting weary of continued spending on aid, particularly if it’s not paid for with other cuts.
Other prime government programs could be temporarily shuttered if Congress fails to act.
One is Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which empowers the NSA to monitor communications without a warrant. That authority expires at the end of the year, and there is bipartisan opposition to a “clean” renewal of the spying powers. There are varying proposals that would extend the programs, but with key reforms.
The National Flood Insurance Program, which has become financially strapped after the spate of powerful hurricanes this year, also needs to be reauthorized by Dec. 8. The House and Senate have dueling proposals to renew the program.
On the health care front, the expiration of funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program is already causing problems as more states have turned to temporary cash infusions from the federal government to keep the programs running.
House Republicans passed a largely partisan CHIP funding measure earlier this month. Still, CHIP could be a relatively simple fix: One option would be to let funding ride along with a short-term continuing resolution that will need to clear Congress by Dec. 8.
Lawmakers will also face pressure to act on legislation that would stabilize the Obamacare markets after Trump’s decision last month to stop paying so-called cost-sharing reduction subsidies to insurers.
Basically any of these could blow up and the House GOP could vote to shut the place down for a while, and even if things pass, there's no guarantee that the increasingly unstable Trump would sign anything into law.
It's a dice roll at this point, and millions of people could be affected. And it doesn't look like the GOP cares one whit about it.