House Passes Funding Extension To Avoid Shutdown; Senate Pushes For Budget Deal The bill to keep the government funded until March 23 goes to the Senate, which is expected to change it. Senate leaders say they are closer than ever to reaching a long-term budget deal.
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House Passes Funding Extension After Trump Says 'I'd Love To See A Shutdown'

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House Passes Funding Extension After Trump Says 'I'd Love To See A Shutdown'

House Passes Funding Extension After Trump Says 'I'd Love To See A Shutdown'

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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

We are once again days away from a potential government shutdown. Now on Capitol Hill, Republicans and Democrats say they think they can strike a deal to avoid that scenario.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MITCH MCCONNELL: I'm optimistic that very soon we'll be able to reach an agreement.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHUCK SCHUMER: We are closer to an agreement than we have ever been.

CHANG: That was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell followed by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer earlier today. Now, President Trump quickly cast doubt on what was supposed to be good feelings today. He suggested he'd be fine with another government shutdown if Congress doesn't deliver what he wants on immigration.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: If we don't change it, let's have a shutdown. We'll do a shutdown. And it's worth it for our country.

CHANG: All right, NPR congressional reporter Kelsey Snell is here with us to sort through all of this. Hey, Kelsey.

KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Hi there.

CHANG: So what exactly is happening here? It sounds like Schumer and McConnell are talking about an entirely different conversation than what the president's talking about.

SNELL: Yeah, this is all about the Thursday shutdown deadline. I know we just finished a deadline...

CHANG: Yes.

SNELL: ...For a shutdown, but we back in that same place. They have until midnight on Thursday to keep the government open. But there's a lot of big happy talk coming out of the Senate right now. They're saying they're closer than they've ever been before on a big, long-term budget agreement that they say - that would keep them from having to fight about spending all the time. Senator Shelby, who's one of the top Republicans on the Appropriations Committee, came over to reporters and he held his fingers really close together, just a fraction of an inch apart, to show us how close they actually were (laughter).

CHANG: Nice, a visual. Well, that sounds like there's been a lot of progress since where we were left just a few weeks ago.

SNELL: Yeah. Right now it doesn't feel like anybody up here wants a shutdown. I've talked to senators and House members who say they really would like to get something done. And it would be a big deal if they could get an agreement on this, something that they're saying could last as long as two years. But in the meantime, the House has already voted to pass a stopgap spending bill. Now, that would keep the government open until March 23 and fund the military for a year. That was never likely to pass in the Senate, where Democrats oppose the idea of funding the military at a higher level than domestic programs. And on this deal that's happening in the Senate, it seems to be coming together. But like anything else in Congress, things could still fall apart.

CHANG: Right.

SNELL: Democrats have an issue with the idea, like I said, of funding the military at a higher rate than domestic spending. And conservatives are not so sure about a bigger deal, which they say would grow the federal government. And that's something they've tried to avoid.

CHANG: Now, how does the issue of immigration play into all of this? It was at the heart of the shutdown fight just a few weeks ago.

SNELL: Yeah. It became a lot less of an issue in terms of spending bills after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed to vote immediately on an immigration bill after the current spending deadline. And while there are separate talks happening - there's something happening in the House and there's a group of bipartisan - the Common Sense Caucus over in the Senate, and there's a whole nother negotiation of the No. 2 leaders in the House and Senate, the - there is just a sense that, you know, they are making some progress here. (Laughter) And the White House says there's no extension on the March 5 deadline. So immigration is proceeding kind of on a separate track.

CHANG: But is it making real progress? Is a deal actually achievable in a month?

SNELL: It's hard to say. I mentioned those - all those separate negotiations.

CHANG: Yeah.

SNELL: It's hard to say where they go from here. And they don't really have a base bill to get started on voting. But I'm told McConnell is actually very serious about voting as early as Friday on some sort of proposal that they could spend the next week or so amending. And that's something that would need to get 60 votes in the Senate, and that means votes from Democrats. And it's not totally clear that what can pass the Senate with Democrats' votes could actually pass in the House. And House Speaker Paul Ryan reminded reporters today that whatever comes up in the House needs to have the support of the president. And the president calling for a shutdown if he doesn't get what he wants kind of throws a sense of uncertainty...

CHANG: Right.

SNELL: ...Into the negotiation.

CHANG: All right, that's NPR congressional reporter Kelsey Snell. Thanks, Kelsey.

SNELL: Thank you.

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