| WASHINGTON, April 26
WASHINGTON, April 26 The U.S. Congress was
moving closer to crafting a deal to avoid shutting down at the
stroke of midnight on Friday, but the details and even broad
strokes of an agreement were still murky.
Some lawmakers are optimistic they can hammer out a budget
bill to take the government to the end of the current fiscal
year on Sept. 30, while others see Congress putting a short-term
spending resolution in place for a week, while talks continue.
Either way, the pressure is mounting to come up with a plan
before Friday night. If lawmakers do not have one, funding for
many federal agencies will abruptly stop and millions of
government workers will be temporarily laid off.
Many policy makers are nervous about a repeat of 2013, when
the government was shuttered for 17 days.
On Monday President Donald Trump eased up on demands to
include funding for a southern border wall in any budget pact,
clearing a major obstacle in the negotiations.
White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told CNN late on
Tuesday that the Trump administration had also informed
Democrats on Monday it would move discussions on building a
border wall to September, when the government must negotiate the
budget for its next fiscal year.
"And we thought that was going to get a deal done and we’ve
not heard anything from them today," he said. "So I’m not sure
Even though Trump's fellow Republicans control both chambers
of Congress, they only have 52 seats in the Senate. To amass the
60 votes needed there to pass the budget, Republicans will have
to bring Democratic lawmakers onto their side.
The most powerful Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer,
said on Tuesday his party is concerned about the ratio of
increase in defense and non-defense spending. Democrats prefer a
one-to-one ratio, and boosting both sides of the budget equally
could become a sticking point in negotiations.
Democrats also want provisions for more healthcare coverage
for coal miners and appropriations for healthcare subsidies.
Health insurance would abruptly become unaffordable for 6
million Americans who rely on cost-sharing subsidies under the
national health plan commonly called Obamacare.
Democrats have been seeking immediate assistance for a
funding gap in Puerto Rico's Medicaid program, federal health
insurance for the poor, saying it is in such bad shape that 1
million people are set to lose healthcare.
Mulvaney also said Trump would not agree to including
Obamacare subsidies in a spending bill.
He told CNN that Democrats "raised Puerto Rico for the first
time a couple of days ago," but did not give Trump's stance on
the Medicaid assistance.
Outside political pressure groups are watching for which
"riders" may be added to any deal that emerges this week.
Spending resolutions primarily lay out how government money
can flow, but often also include riders, smaller measures
attached to the budget so they can become law.
Past riders have touched on areas such as banning the
Securities and Exchange Commission from requiring corporations
to disclose political donations.
Democrats said they were worried Republicans could try to
attach language limiting family-planning funds, and Schumer
expressed concerns about attempts to undo Wall Street reforms
enacted after the 2007-09 financial crisis.
(Additional reporting by Richard Cowan and Lisa Lambert;
Writing by Lisa Lambert; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)