- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 2, 2017

Congressional Republicans announced a short-term spending bill Saturday to keep the government open through Dec. 22, hoping to head off a looming shutdown next week with a two-week reprieve.

The bill is likely to be the first test of Democrats’ willingness to force a shutdown over their demand that illegal immigrant “Dreamers” be granted a pathway to citizenship.

GOP leaders have said they want to work on a replacement for the legally suspect Obama-era DACA deportation amnesty, which President Trump is phasing out, but say the deadline for action is March. Democrats, though, have created an end-of-year deadline and are using the rest of government funding — and the expectation that Republicans would take the blame for a shutdown — as leverage to try to force action now.

Many Democrats have said they won’t vote for any spending bill that doesn’t include legal status for Dreamers.

House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen called the two-week spending bill a bridge to give Congress a chance to work on a broader bill for fiscal year 2018.

“Continuing funding for federal operations is critical to our nation’s stability, our economy, and for the well-being of the American people. It is a necessary step to ensure the programs and services that all Americans rely on are maintained and available to all,” the New Jersey Republican said.

The 2018 spending bills were supposed to be done by Oct. 1, but Republicans — who control all the levers — were unable to get the work done.

They’re still still fighting with Democrats over the overall discretionary spending number. Those discussions broke down yet again this week when Democratic leaders refused to attend a bipartisan meeting with President Trump.

Defense hawks within the GOP are demanding a massive surge in military spending, and they have the backing of Mr. Trump. But Democrats have said that must be accompanied by more domestic spending.

The government has been operating on a “continuing resolution” keeping 2017 spending levels going since Oct. 1.

Hoping to win more support for the two-week spending bill, GOP leaders included an extension of money for the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Some states say their ability to fund the program will falter in December without renewed assistance.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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