- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 30, 2017

Bumping up against another shutdown deadline, Congress will have to pass a short-term spending bill next week and push big decisions into next year, lawmakers said Thursday — though Democrats said they may still force a shutdown fight over new rights for illegal immigrants.

A number of rank-and-file Democrats have said they will not approve any spending bill that doesn’t grant a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrant Dreamers, and have imposed an end-of-year deadline for approving such a bill.

That creates a major wrinkle as Republicans try to clear the decks ahead of a Christmas vacation, and as Democrats decide how far they want to go in brinkmanship.

“We will pass a short-term [bill] that is necessary to keep the government open, to keep talks going,” said House Speaker Paul D. Ryan. “If the Senate Democrats choose to filibuster that, then they will have chosen to shut the government down, something that we do not want to see happen.”

Current government funding expires Dec. 8 and without a new bill there would be a shutdown of non-essential operations.

The last shutdown in 2013 was spawned by Republicans, who controlled the House and who demanded changes to Obamacare. Democrats, who controlled the Senate and the White House resisted, and the GOP relented after polls showed them taking the blame.

The GOP controls the House, Senate and White House this time around, however, and it would be minority Democrats who would be in the position of preventing funding.

Mr. Ryan seemed confident that Republicans will be unified enough to pass the bill in the House. The timeline was still being debated, but conservatives said they wanted to make sure the next spending deadline isn’t until the new year.

Democratic leaders were coy about their own strategy Thursday, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi saying she’ll wait to see what the GOP bill looks like before deciding what to do.

Other Democrats were more adamant that they won’t vote for something unless it provides legal status for illegal immigrant Dreamers who had been protected under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals deportation amnesty.

“Democrats are not going to help them on any of these issues unless we have a DACA fix,” said Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, New Mexico Democrat and chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

President Trump has said that any bill for Dreamers must also include a number of reforms to the immigration system, including stricter interior enforcement, tighter controls on legal immigration and money for his border wall.

Democrats have rejected each of those proposals in turn on principle, and said they have no place in a bill to legalize Dreamers.

Democrats also said they’re expecting help from dozens of Republicans who want to see legal status for Dreamers done. Ms. Lujan Grisham said she expects at least 25 Republicans to sign a letter supporting a DACA fix without Mr. Trump’s demands.

Republicans confirmed the letter-writing effort, but did not get into details about what it would say.

“The letter Main Street members are working on is to show their strong support for solving the DACA issue and that we believe the House should address it now, rather than later,” said Rep. Rodney Davis, chairman of the Republican Main Street Caucus.

Unlike some of our Democrat counterparts, we are not using this issue to play political games or hold government funding hostage. We simply want a solution to help DACA recipients as soon as possible,” he said in a statement.

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