WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate's top Republican Monday announced a lengthy wish list that he hopes to attach to a must-do spending bill this week, but there's no agreement with the chamber's Democrats and little time to waste.
The government would partially shut down if Washington can't pass another stopgap spending bill by midnight Friday.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is eyeing the measure as a shortcut to power several other items into law, including hurricane relief, a renewal of a children's health insurance program and funding to stabilize "Obamacare" insurance markets.
But top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer has other priorities, chiefly protection from deportation of immigrants commonly referred to as "Dreamers" and securing spending increases for domestic agencies to match huge budget increases sought by defense hawks for the Pentagon.
The must-pass spending bill would be the main item of congressional business remaining after Republicans wrap up action on their hard-fought tax bill. Lawmakers are eager to head home for the holidays.
GOP leaders are aiming for Tuesday votes in both House and Senate on the tax measure, which would be the biggest win by far for President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill.
As Republicans controlling Congress hashed out their tax measure, however, a stack of unfinished legislation has piled up. Negotiations have produced some progress but many disagreements remain. Perhaps most significantly, Democrats are demanding that Trump fulfill pledges to address the immigration issue, which involves protections for immigrants brought to the country illegally as children and whom have often known no other home that the U.S.
Republicans leaders don't want to take on the politically explosive issue of immigration this year but promise it will be taken care of next year. And GOP leaders have so far rejected Democratic demands that domestic agencies and foreign aid accounts receive spending increases at parity with the $60-70 billion or more increase that Republicans want to award the Department of Defense.
In the House, GOP leaders have announced a plan to pair a huge Pentagon funding bill with record spending increases with a stopgap spending measure called a continuing resolution that would keep the rest of the government running at current levels through Jan. 19. They have also added a GOP-drafted renewal of the popular Clinton-era Children's Health Insurance Program.
The House GOP plan has little chance of surviving in the Senate. Unlike the tax bill, which is advancing under special filibuster-proof procedures, Democratic votes are needed to pass the year-end measure.
"We need action on Dreamers, and we need our Republican colleagues to cooperate," Schumer said. "On these issues and more, there is a lot of work left to do."
And in the Senate, McConnell promised several additions of his own, including tens of billions of dollars in hurricane aid, renewal of a controversial overseas wiretapping program that's valuable in fighting terrorism, and a budget waiver that would make sure that tax bill doesn't trigger cuts to Medicare and other benefit programs under so-called pay-as-you-go rules enacted when Democrats controlled Congress.
The complexity of the agenda — and Capitol Hill's spotty track record of bipartisan success in the Trump era — has spawned speculation that lawmakers will do the bare minimum to avert a shutdown and punt almost all of the rest of the issues into the new year.
"Congress must do what is right for the American people and take action this week," McConnell said, urging his colleagues to "come together and help pass a funding agreement that fulfills our responsibilities to the nation."