Congress poised to end session without a big fight, pushing off spending battle to next year

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), left, and successor Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) in Washington as Reid's last session wraps up.
(Molly Riley / Associated Press)

Congress is setting up the next budget showdown for early in Donald Trump’s new administration, agreeing on a stopgap measure to fund the government only through April 28.

The House on Thursday overwhelmingly approved the temporary spending bill, ending its work for the session as lawmakers dashed off for the holidays.

Final passage by the Senate was expected by Friday’s deadline. It hit a hurdle after Democrats sided with Rust Belt lawmakers seeking to preserve health and pension benefits that are in jeopardy for retired miners.


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Even so, two weeks before the Christmas holiday, lawmakers could be wrapping up the 114th Congress as one that will be notable not for big accomplishments but for concluding without too big of mess.

There was even a nod to bipartisanship, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) joined a tribute to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who is retiring after three decades in Congress.

Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, returned to Washington for the tribute, noting this was not the speech she had hoped to give, having lost the White House to Trump. She said Reid’s legacy will be the Affordable Care Act and other legislation that became law under his watch.

“Harry has fought for the simple but powerful idea that, yes, we are all created equal,” she said.

Republican leaders had hoped to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year next September, to clear the new year for the incoming Trump administration.

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But the president-elect’s team indicated they preferred a stopgap funding measure, siding with congressional conservatives who argued that an earlier deadline would allow Trump to put his own stamp on government spending.

The April deadline all but ensures a budget brawl early in the Trump administration, when the new White House and the GOP Congress could be focused on other priorities.

Democrats called on Trump — who campaigned on promises to coal state voters — to intervene to help the miners.

The United Mine Workers benefit fund risks insolvency, and miners and their dependents were set to lose health coverage at the end of the month.

Proposals in Congress called for extending coverage for five years, but the stopgap measure allows for a four-month extension to April.

“It’s really appalling,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, who voted against the spending package.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York, the incoming minority leader, said, “We’re challenging the president-elect: Follow through on what you campaigned on.”

The legislation also provides $4.1 billion in disaster funds for Hurricane Matthew and $170 million for Flint, Mich., and other communities to upgrade drinking water infrastructure and address public health concerns.

Twitter: @LisaMascaro


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