GOP pressing plan to avert shutdown

House leaders push to keep government up through Dec. 22

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WASHINGTON — House Republican leaders are looking to pass a short-term spending bill to avoid a government shutdown next week and keep the government’s doors open through Dec. 22.

With the additional time, the GOP hopes talks with Democrats over spending and immigration could produce the framework for a longer-term budget pact agreement and resolve a basket of Washington’s other unfinished business. Both sides want a bipartisan agreement on spending increases for the Pentagon and domestic agencies, whose budgets otherwise would be frozen.

The government’s spending runs out a week from today, with little time for negotiations.

Battles over immigration and President Donald Trump’s U.S.-Mexico border wall could still threaten to spark a government shutdown, either just before Christmas or in January.

But the emerging scenario represents progress of sorts after a tit-for-tat battle on Tuesday between Trump and top Capitol Hill Democrats scotched a White House meeting slated to discuss the crush of year-end business. Both sides want to give negotiations another chance to produce an agreement with wins for Republicans and Democrats alike. If an agreement is reached by Dec. 22, another temporary spending bill, probably into January, would be required to iron out details of a separate follow-up measure totaling more than $1 trillion that would fund every federal agency for 2018.

“We’re going to give it space and time. We’re going to see if they can resolve something,” said North Carolina Rep. Patrick McHenry, a key GOP leadership strategist. “And that will determine what Dec. 22 looks like.”

If talks fall apart, however, a shutdown threat could quake the capital just before Christmas.

A key unresolved issue involves legislation to protect immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children and whose protected status is set to lapse in March. Trump backs the idea despite issuing an executive order reversing the Obama administration protections, officially called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, starting next spring.

Democrats want the issue resolved this year, but GOP leaders — facing many rank-and-file lawmakers opposed to the idea — aren’t in any hurry.

Conservatives oppose drawing in the immigration issue to legislation to keep the government running. The Trump White House is pressing to address other issues such as the wall and new funding for immigration enforcement.

“Do we have to have a DACA solution? Yes we do. The deadline’s March,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. “But if they want to get to a solution they ought to come to the table and start talking.”