Leaders push spending bill to avoid shutdown

WASHINGTON — Top Republicans tried quelling GOP divisions over the budget and a partisan immigration clash simmered in the background as leaders labored Tuesday to push a short-term spending bill through Congress by week’s end and avert a partial government shutdown.

Republican leaders postponed a planned House vote on the temporary spending measure from today until Thursday, buying time to iron out disputes with conservatives seeking tighter budget curbs. The delay underscored the clout conservatives wield within the House GOP as leaders work to avoid a shutdown that would deal the latest blow to a party that has strained all year to show it can govern effectively.

There seemed to be little taste by most in either party, at least for now, to shutter agency doors with 2018 midterm elections for control of Congress coming into view. That included at the White House, where President Donald Trump often revels in conflict and unpredictable tactics that members of his own party consider counterproductive.

“It’s always a possibility, but it’s certainly not what we hope for,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said of a potential shutdown. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., will join GOP leaders for a White House meeting with Trump on Thursday, and Sanders said, “The president hopes to be able to have conversations with them to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Schumer couldn’t resist touting his and Pelosi’s abrupt refusal to attend a budget summit last week after Trump disparaged their views on immigration and taxes and said no deal was in sight.

“We showed the president. No games. This is serious stuff. We think he learned, and he invited us back,” Schumer told reporters.

Money for federal agencies runs out at midnight Friday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Republicans hope Congress will pass legislation this week financing federal agencies until Dec. 22, giving bargainers time to make longer-term budget decisions and address other issues that have floated into the year-end mix.

Without support from their own conservatives, House GOP leaders would need backing from Democrats to push the temporary measure through the chamber. Democratic votes will definitely be crucial in the Senate, where Republicans by themselves lack the 60 votes needed to approve the legislation.

Knowing that, Democrats are using their leverage to try forcing concessions to boost domestic spending in areas like health care and infrastructure. Hinting that they might back a short-term measure preventing a shutdown, Schumer said approving such a bill “gives us a little more time to do the things we’re talking about now.”